One of the country’s most persistent challenges is finding ways to help those struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues beyond their control.
Federal figures show the number to be significant. In 2008, it was estimated that 30 million Americans had received treatment for a mental health issue in the previous year, and about 22 million were believed to be addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Earlier this summer, meanwhile, a worldwide study found that the United States and France had the highest percentages of citizens facing depression. A fifth of adults in both countries say they have suffered from this disorder at least once in their life.
It has been nearly 50 years since the United States began taking a different approach when it comes to diagnosing and treating these types of cases. Believing that the best solution was a local one, Congress established a nationwide system of community mental health and mental retardation centers.
In Kentucky, that became the 14 regional boards that now roughly align with our area development districts. In 2010, they helped 178,000 people, which was a fourth more than they saw in 2001. The number of services provided, however, went up almost by half.
Three out of four people served by these agencies have a mental health diagnosis, while those working to overcome substance abuse make up about 13 percent. The remainder includes those diagnosed with mental retardation or acquired brain injuries.
In addition to supporting these agencies financially, the General Assembly has taken several other steps in recent years to improve care. In 2007, for example, we called on the Department for Mental Health and Mental Retardation to work with the Justice Cabinet to update training procedures for law enforcement; we did this so that the officers would be better equipped when interacting with those having a mental illness, developmental disability or a substance abuse disorder.
In 2008, we authorized a new Eastern State Hospital in Lexington, replacing a campus that was the nation’s second-oldest psychiatric care facility, pre-dating even the Civil War. The new location will feature more than 200 beds and include specialized care for those with acquired brain injuries.
Earlier this year, my legislative colleagues and I urged Congress to increase resources for those in the military – and veterans as well – diagnosed with combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In recent months, the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee has taken a closer look at ways the state can do more when it comes to treating those with mental health or substance abuse issues. One suggestion is to make it easier for the various agencies involved to coordinate their long-term needs so we have a more comprehensive outlook statewide. That’s especially important in an era of stretching tax dollars.
While the holiday season is often a happy time for many of us, it can also be a difficult period for those coping with such things as depression. If you or someone you know could benefit from our local community health center, please take the time to call. The toll-free number is (800) 928-8000.
And if you would like to contact me regarding any issue affecting the state, I can be reached by writing to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at (800) 372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.