With so many national issues being assessed in our state and federal governments, mental health stands on its own. Mental healthcare workers are no longer content to wait for gun control to make a difference in the outcomes for some of the mentally ill. Instead, they are shifting the focus toward ability to educate patients and family about mental health in order to lower the stigma on those patients. Mental health advocates also want to improve patients’ access to facilities and programs that will accomplish these goals.
In New Mexico, a new chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), has been started on the state university’s campus in Las Cruces. The club has elected officers and plans to host a kickoff celebration this spring. It is with great promise that students and their family members can gain the understanding of the trying aspects of mental illnesses.
The name of the NAMI group is Dona Ana. Attached to the chapter are Family Support meetings at a local church for those who are family, friends or caregivers to those with a mental illness. The Dona Ana group will include advocacy for the mentally ill, with sessions named To Peer or not to Peer; LGBT issues, and a Crisis Triage Center. The Family to Family group, meant for relatives of the mentally ill, meets at another local church from January through March. There is no cost involved, and all materials are provided for those who attend.
It appears that mental health issues stand on its own and a movement of sorts is being formed from both political and grass-roots efforts.
A shift has been occurring in many states, following scandal and violence which need to be addressed. In Virginia, James W. Stewart III will retire as commissioner of behavioral health and developmental services at the end of Governor Bob McDonnell’s term on Saturday. The Governor-Elect, Teri McAuliffe, will be looking for a successor for Stewart. The state has faced a political crisis since the November 19th stabbing of State Senator R. Creigh multiple times by his own son, Austin, who then committed suicide. This happened just 13 hours after Austin Creigh had been released from an emergency custody order for a mental health evaluation.
McDonnell has set up a task force to examine what changes need to take place in the mental health crisis. McAuliffe will continue to work with the force to look at different approaches to the system. The focus already is on community services, as opposed to state institutions.
When it comes to local services, Ohio’s county mental healthcare workers will be serving a new boss. Lutheran Family Services have signed a contract with seven Ohio counties to serve the mentally ill. The county made a decision to privatize these behavioral health services to save money and localize services. A savings of around $300,000 should go far in helping those who seek care.
Lutheran Family Services will use nine county workers as employees and will hire some of their own employees as well. Those who made a decision to leave the county jobs were at first given options to work with Lutheran Family Services.
Gwen Thorpe, deputy chief administrative officer for the board and acting administrator for the Mental Health Center during the transition, hopes to find positions for the seven employees who decided not to transfer. Since the majority are sticking with this new provider, Thorpe says that, “It is also great continuity for the clients.”
The mental health issue in the U.S. stands on its own, and will continue to improve through the states and counties served by behavioral health systems. Whether by starting a new program through NAMI, or addressing the concerns of the community, more education and closer connection through social discourse is warranted for new horizons to open up to the mentally ill.
By Lisa M Pickering