LETTER: Community safer when mental health services adequately funded
Peninsula Daily News - 11/23/2018
As Washington's development of the 2019-21 biennial budget approaches, please support funding for mental health services.
In 2016, due to staffing, safety and credentialing deficiencies, the Department of Health and Human Services discontinued admitting residents evaluated as dangerous to self or others to Western State Hospital (WSH).
The policy change forced Community Behavioral Health Centers (CMHC) to use local medical hospitals, not staffed to treat chronic, mentally ill patients, at considerably higher costs.
Then, this past June, for failing to correct regulatory requirements cited two years earlier by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, WSH lost Medicaid certification and $53 million annual federal funding.
Gov. Jay Inslee plans within five years to shift inpatient psychiatric care from large state hospitals to smaller state-run community programs.
However, in the meantime, CMHCs particularly in western Washington will be hard-pressed to meet the psychiatric needs of their residents either for inpatient or outpatient care without further funding.
When there are inadequate psychiatric resources for treating the mental health needs in our towns and cities, local hospital emergency rooms become burdened and there is a concomitant occurrence of mental health crises and incidents in communities.
Now that the state has more adequately funded K-12 public education as a result of the McCleary lawsuit, it is time to better fund the Washington mental health system.
When the mentally ill receive effective and appropriate psychiatric care, the community is safer and all members benefit.
Peter O. Casey,
Peter Casey is a former executive director for Peninsula Behavioral Health.