Addressing Stress with a Stressed System
by Tom Cranshaw and William Kyles
(a version of this column appeared Dec. 29 in the Kansas City Star and may be viewed here (link opens in new window)
Emotional stress from the holidays. Financial pressures from the economy. Loss of jobs and health insurance. Feelings of hopelessness, homelessness, depression. Temptations of suicide. Reports of a shrinking mental health system. Where do I turn for help?
Holiday and financial stress exacerbate feelings of depression and other mental illnesses. However a 24/7 hotline system of mental health crisis intervention services and professionals in our region is available to address whatever stress levels are being experienced. The caller is linked to other qualified professionals who can meet with the caller within 10 minutes to 10 hours. The needs of the caller are prioritized and services are provided without regard to ability to pay.
Real Life Challenges
For example, recently, a depressed suicidal single mom with three children and no job called the crisis line after receiving a DUI. A mobile crisis team member met her at her home, provided her counseling and a next day appointment to see a psychiatrist at a local mental health center. She is now receiving outpatient treatment for both her depression and alcoholism.
The Metropolitan Mental Health Stakeholders, a diverse group of mental health organizations, law enforcement, and community advocates want you to know that the system of care in Missouri and Kansas consists of nine community mental health centers and other behavioral health providers committed to serving the needs of the community, ensuring public safety and access to least-restrictive and cost-effective care. It offers hope and a commitment to assist individuals with a mental disorder effectively in their families, schools, and workplaces.
Stressing the System
But the system also suffers from the pressures of the economy as both public and private funding sources are eroding. These pressures may cause some with mental health needs to wait a few weeks for routine behavior health services. But an urgent cry for immediate help is always available within 24 hours.
Discussions in the community often lament closed acute care beds, insufficient housing, and excess reliance on clogged emergency departments or jails. Each of these frustrations is real because financial pressures limit needed services for everyone.
The region’s mental health centers work closely with client advocates such as NAMI and Mental Health America and other members of the Metropolitan Mental Health Stakeholders to develop creative solutions to the community’s needs despite shrinking funds. Intensive residential and inpatient diversion services help fill the gap, as do in-home supports and professional parenting services to keep children in the community. State-of-the art telemedicine provides scarce psychiatric services to more community residents. Some state funded inpatient beds have been privatized to maintain availability and enhance access to quality care.
Every dollar spent on community-based services returns three dollars in decreased inpatient and criminal justice costs. The mental health system desperately needs more funding but, the community continues to have available an accessible system of quality, state-of-the art mental health services.
Our 24/7 crisis line number is 1-888-279-8188.
Tom Cranshaw, President/CEO, Tri-County Mental Health Services.Inc.; Chair, Metropolitan Council of Community Mental Health Centers; Chair, CommCare, a leading local Mental Health Management entity; Vice Chair, Kansas City Health Commission
William Kyles, President/CEO, Comprehensive Mental Health Services, Inc.; Chair, Metropolitan Mental Health Stakeholders; Chair, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare; Chair, Missouri Coalition of Community Mental Health Centers
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