Lack of mental health resources in Wyoming is creating a crisis, lawmakers said | Wyoming

CHEYENNE — Health care advocates told lawmakers Friday that a lack of mental health resources, such as emergency centers, infrastructure, staff and funding, has caused gaps in crisis care across the country. Wyoming.

These shortcomings extend to non-emergency mental health services, but the focus was on stabilizing the crisis during the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Labor, Health and Human Services Committee. A mental health crisis differs from basic mental health care in that if the person experiencing a psychiatric episode is not treated, they may need to be placed in a more extensive clinical setting, such as hospitalization.

There are currently four regional crisis stabilization providers across five regions and 27 total beds available in the state, costing nearly $4 million in the 2021-22 biennial budget. Wyoming Department of Health officials said this has led to housing, transportation and access issues for residents.

Committee chair, Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne, also called attention to historic cases where someone with an acute episode often turns into a law enforcement problem. Any situation in which a person’s behavior exposes them to injury to themselves or others and/or prevents them from taking care of themselves or functioning is a crisis.

“I think we can all agree that a prison is not the setting where people should be treated,” she told committee members. “And we don’t want one person’s situation spreading to other parts of the community.”

She said what you see on the news is usually a bad result.

Discussions surrounding mental health have been at the forefront of state and federal legislatures across the country following the shootings in New York, Texas and Oklahoma, and it’s not a new topic for the US legislature. Wyoming. During the 20-day budget session earlier this year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle debated additional funding for mental health services in the 2023-24 biennial budget and bailout appropriations. American.

The governing body approved an initial $7 million in ARPA dollars for construction specific to crisis stabilization and women’s residential treatment, but requests for credits to improve the suicide lifeline have not been approved.

According to Mental Health America, Wyoming ranks last in the nation for youth mental health services, 48th for access to overall mental health care, and 40th for prevalence of mental illness.

Yet suicide rates are much higher than the national average. In a report provided by the Wyoming Department of Health proposing funding solutions to develop psychiatric residential treatment facilities, it was noted that between 2009 and 2019, the annual age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 was 29.9, while the national average is currently 13.42.

The Kaiser Family Foundation also found that the percentage of need for mental health professionals encountered in Wyoming is only 47.1%.

Understanding the state’s mental health care environment and its crisis shortcomings is why Wilson said the labor committee met on Friday, though she doesn’t have a set yet. specific solutions in mind.

“We just need to understand what we’re doing, what we’re not doing, what’s needed and how can we move forward,” she said.

Stefan Johansson, director of the Wyoming Department of Health, and Andi Summerville, director of the Wyoming Association of Mental Health and Addiction Centers, were present at the meeting to provide context. Both identified problems and showed lawmakers where improvements were needed.

From the state’s perspective, Johansson said there is a lack of emergency and crisis services for children and adolescents – resources such as crisis infrastructure, personnel, logistics and funding, as well as agreements with stakeholders and community resources. He also sees a need for more evidence-based emergency response services, such as a 24-hour crisis stabilization call center, mobile emergency services and emergency response teams. emergency.

“When people are often decompensated (losing their ability to maintain normal or appropriate psychological defenses) in the community, and law enforcement is often involved, we have seen and observed success when there is either a place to take that person that’s not a prison or a hospital,” he said. “That’s accessible to those who might have a lower level of care and spend a day or two in a crisis center.”

These locations are also important because they can also provide a “step down” for people with mental illness from more restrictive settings, such as inpatient hospitalization and correctional settings.

Summerville made similar remarks to the Labor Committee and stressed that these services must be part of a comprehensive statewide network in the least restrictive setting in order to respond to mental health crisis care. Options currently available are the 998/Suicide Lifeline, 24/7 Community Mental Health Center Network and Crisis Stabilization Infrastructure, and Hospital Emergency, Inpatient and Hospital Services public.

However, she said there are limitations in facilities, transportation gaps, difficulties in placing patients in recess, and 23 different counties with their own processes. The suicide lifeline is also unstaffed 24/7 by Wyoming responders, and facilities are understaffed.

She said she hopes to see the development of a possible amendment to the state Medicaid plan to secure federal funding, support for the development of two facility additions, behavioral health reform, 24/7 operations and implementations for lifeline and consistent strategy. for adolescents and adults in crisis.

“What we’re missing in Wyoming is a unified, ‘this is how we do crisis,'” she said.

This story was published on June 4.

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