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Mental health system wishes for 2012

Last modified: 1/9/2012 12:00:00 AM
Here are my top wishes for mental health services in 2012: 1. No more budget cuts! If the unsettling number of people with mental illness who were shot by the police last year isn't enough, then the long (sometimes days) waits for beds at the state psychiatric hospital are a clear sign of a system under significant stress. More cuts in funding for community mental health centers will only make the crisis worse. How many more incidents like the person who smashed windows at the Fox Run Mall in December claiming he was God, do we need before legislators realize they need to invest in community services?

2. Trust but verify managed care for Medicaid. With so many of our clients covered by Medicaid, the state's move to managed care must be scrutinized. I don't think managed care is all bad, but if managed care companies come into New Hampshire seeking to cut utilization of services, the rates that providers are paid, and delay payments to providers (all classic managed care tools to make money for their Wall Street-traded mother companies), our stressed community mental health centers may not be able to survive.

3. A positive resolution to the Department of Justice finding. I hope that the commissioner of Human Services and the attorney general can put aside whatever offense they have taken at the Department of Justice finding that New Hampshire's mental health system is out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision. Our leaders need to face facts, facts that they have admitted themselves in their own report: Our mental health system is 'broken.' If we focus on developing evidence-based services that keep people out of expensive levels of care it will be a win for our clients and a financial win for the state.

4. A return to excellence. New Hampshire used to be recognized as having the country's finest mental health system. Since the 1980s and '90s, the system has deteriorated. Let's pledge to get our citizens the type of quality care they deserve. The good news is that community-based services are safe, high quality and are much less expensive than hospital or prison care. If we took the $3 million being invested in the expansion of the secure psychiatric unit of the state prison and invested it in community-based care we could serve more people in their home communities.

5. Take care of your mental health. Everyone needs to pay attention to their mental health and the mental health of those they love. I have seen too many tragic cases of families ripped apart by an untreated mental illness when help is available. Mental health treatment works. No one should suffer because our society is too often ashamed of needing help for emotional issues. This makes no sense when one out of five Americans has a diagnosable mental disorder.

(Louis Josephson is CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health Inc. in Concord.)


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