The state’s HHS Mental Health Director and county director of mental health administration came to our church to speak yesterday. The county said they’re looking for ways to reduce the number of commitments. The cost is due to the sheriff, judge, lawyers, case workers, Medicaid., etc. The county administration does all the billing for commitments. They said the federal system isn’t paying their share so they’re losing lots of money on the commitment process.
The head of our HHS is one of the states elected state representatives from my county, why we were lucky to have her give the presentations. She did not seek reelection but held the post for 6 years. If you have an issue with your commitment process in your area I’d suggest calling either or both of these people in your state and county.
One way they are seeking to reduce costs is to give the patient the option to seek treatment or evaluation voluntarily by sending a caseworker to the patient first, not hauled off involtarily by the police . I liked that idea, that is missing. I would have gone voluntarily, and have tried.
The county also provides help finding housing she said, has a new crisis line, provides other services like payee, assistants to inmates in jail, organizes CIT training, etc.
A new telehealth program was initiated where anyone going to the ER, even at a critical access hospital can be evaluated by a psychiatrist using a web meeting or FaceTime like software. This is a big deal since the telehealth doctor (psychiatrist on call) is in a neighbor state. They say they are getting good results, lower costs, better outcomes.
Another cost saving measure is for the individual counties to group and form alliances. For example, a neighbor county doesn’t have a local hospital so they work together to bring patients to my city for care when the neighbor county has a commitment. They talked about the other county mental health districts alliances and how they work.
They’re hiring a mental health worker who’s sole job is to work with jail inmates, and making changes to the court system to accommodate mentally ill offenders. They are looking to treat rather than punish. And treat jail inmates already incarcerated.
There is a controversy in my area on building a new billion dollar mental hospital in my county and a lot of discussion revolved around that toward the end. The state representative was for the new hospital, more options more competition, the existing providers are lobbying against it. So far, 2 votes have ended in a tie.