Our Views: State Mental Health Departments Are Promising

Mental health issues have become a blanket excuse for many of the problems plaguing American society. Whether it’s mass shootings, rising opioid overdoses, or rising homelessness, commentators are often quick to blame mental health and lack of services.

In fact, mental health issues have contributed to this devastation and have gotten worse since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The question then becomes what to do about it.

In Washington, the Office of Behavioral Health Advocacy was launched in October as a result of House Bill 1086, which Congress unanimously passed in 2021. Sponsor Tara Simmons Democrat Bremerton said at the time that the idea was to “identify systemic problems.” That’s what’s happening in our behavioral health system. ”

It means working with people in need of care, directing them to appropriate services, and holding public and private providers to account. A local advocate told Columbia in January: As a fellow, you too have experienced this system. Therefore, we understand what experiences people can have when someone is trying to claim themselves to get the services they need. that mutual understanding. . . Open the door to empathy. ”

The new office is part of an ongoing strategy to reimagine Washington’s mental health services. The 2023-2025 budget, which Congress passed last month, includes $957 million in behavioral health investments, including efforts to improve crisis response, prevent crises from occurring and increase the mental health workforce. It will also increase funding for the 988 Crisis Line, which was launched last year.

“This year we have the strongest behavioral health budget the state has ever implemented,” said Senator Manka Dingla of Redmond, Democratic Party. “These are investments that pay off.”

Securing these dividends will require not only investment, but a rethink of Washington’s mental health system. Improving treatment for people in the early stages of crisis is an important step. Therefore, it is also an effective service for those facing tough situations that pose a threat to themselves and others.

We need more psychiatric beds, and prisons and emergency rooms should not be viewed as stopovers for patients needing intensive care.

This issue is not just Washington’s. And the data shows that there are big differences in how states approach mental health care.

Washington spends $128 per person on mental health services, more than 31 other states, according to a study by the American Addiction Center. But the range is extraordinary, with Maine spending $363 per state resident. Florida and Idaho spend $36 per person.

Showing the politicization of the issue, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has consistently blamed mental health for the mass shootings. Critics say he cut state mental health services budgets, but the money was replenished through the federal pandemic fund.

Spending is not the most important measure. An easily accessible and effective system is more important than money. In this regard, the Office of Action Advocacy is watching closely. If it proves to seamlessly direct patients to beneficial services and effectively monitor a wide range of critical systems, it will be an investment that will help all Washington residents.

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