Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Missouri Democrats Push for Mental Health Program

My hometown paper contains an article by that title today. It begins:

House Democrats proposed on Monday to expand funding for a mental health program that provides intensive care for the homeless, people with substance abuse problems and those who are unaware that they are ill.

Supporters say the program is designed for patients who have struggled with the traditional model, which assigns patients a case worker who helps them secure a variety of health services.

Jackie Lukitesch, executive director of the St. Louis office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the biggest difference between the more intense treatment and traditional models is that patients who miss treatments and appointments are not automatically removed from the program.

"They go out and seek out why, if they don't come in, and do not discharge them," she said.

She said between 10 percent and 20 percent of people seeking mental health care would be eligible for the intensive care treatment.

Rep. Margaret Donnelly called for the state to create a pilot program of four mental health teams and study its effectiveness. The pilot program would cost about $5 million.

Donnelly, D-Richmond Heights, said about 100 people already received care from a St. Louis-based team. She said expanding access to mental health treatment would save money and help reduce crime rates because many of the people who are in prison have mental illnesses.

The stepped-up care, called "assertive community treatment," has been used in several states. The Department of Mental Health asked for $5 million to fund the program in its budget requests for the next fiscal year, but Gov. Matt Blunt did not include it in his budget recommendations.
Margaret Donnelly is a really fine state rep., and Missouri's a place where I think there are going to be a lot of interesting things going on in mental health over the next few years.

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