Mental Health Plan

Plan to address Mental Health/Addiction in our community

Right now, we are at crisis level in District 3. Many of our issues intersect and cannot truly be addressed without addressing other underlying issues as well. Properly addressing Mental Health and Addiction will also help fight crime, homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, poverty and sex trafficking. These are the issues I’ve been campaigning on since the start, and I believe that any real progress for the district should begin by attacking the lack of quality care on this front.

Work within existing Police Department Specialty Units- By the nature of their job, Police interactions with the public can often lead to conflict with those suffering mental health issues and/or chemical dependency. WPD has taken steps to re-evaluate departmental policies in favor of a more effective and lasting approach in dealing with these individuals. ICT1 is a program that embeds social workers and mental health professionals with police units to respond to suspected mental health crisis. The WPD HOT (Homeless Outreach Team) and South Broadway Corridor Team are policing in ways different from the past, directing the homeless and those caught up in sex trafficking to needed resources instead of criminalizing them. These units need support and funding to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Workforce Training- Several existing programs, such as COMCARE and ICT1, are experiencing staff shortages, both due to subpar pay and a lack of existing workforce. In addition, future programs, such as the 988 suicide prevention hotline due to begin in mid-2022, will need trained individuals to fill positions and ensure maximum effectiveness. Existing workforce training programs should be expanded to include certifications for healthcare workers, especially those in the areas of mental health and chemical dependency, including but not limited to counselors, therapists, and nurses/orderlies.

Consolidate existing unused or underutilized funds- There are pools of money provided by the Federal Government, State, County, and City that have gone unused and underutilized. We need to go through our books and use all available funds wisely.

Pass Medicaid Expansion- As a city, we need to put Medicaid Expansion on the legislative agenda we send to Topeka to provide funding for mental healthcare and chemical dependency and help with reimbursement to pay healthcare workers competitive wages to keep them in their jobs.

Centralized Campus- A quality campus where people and families can go to seek help for themselves and their loved ones is absolutely necessary to help with our mental health crisis. We can’t simply feel good about opening a building or saying there are open beds, we need to ensure that there are effective treatment options available, and staff have all the necessary resources. Please look at the Haven for Hope model in San Antonio.

Streamline the process with the County and Charities- Right now, the City and County are on two different tracks as far as funding, services, and follow up treatment. We need to communicate with our counterparts at County and with Charitable Organizations to ensure that our services don’t overlap, and programs are coordinated to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Focus services in communities of need, including Homeless Day/Night Shelter, Battered Women’s Shelters, and programs to help victims of Sex Trafficking- 70% of homeless have a mental illness or substance abuse problem, and 50% have both. Putting resources in separate Day and Night Campuses for the Homeless and Shelters for Women fleeing abuse will provide a humane way in dealing with at risk populations, and coordinating services with other departments and charities are necessary to help give people a way out of the downward spiral they are caught up in.

Provide support services for families- Unfortunately many habits dealing with substance abuse and mental instability are learned and can be passed down from generation to generation. A child who grows up in a household with an addict is at least 4 times more likely to develop an addiction habit themselves. The habits and dealing mechanisms that they learned as a child become ingrained in their personality. We need to fund programs to help children and family members understand what’s going on with their loved ones so they can better process the situation and know that there are better options in life.

Have options available for when a person decides their ready to clean up- The current wait for a bed in COMCARE can be more than a month long, and by that time a person who wishes to sober up can fall back into old destructive habits. We need to have programs and services available for THE INSTANT that a person decides to get sober to maximize the chances of recovery. The promotion and use of the Integrated Referral Information System will allow organizations to work together in identifying and connecting those who need help with the resources they need. We must also focus on providing more beds for those who need inpatient treatment for the short and long term.

Direct ARPA funds to sustainable programs and infrastructure- There are federal funds provided by the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) earmarked specifically for mental health and substance abuse programs. We need to invest these funds wisely in infrastructure and sustainable programs that will serve the city’s at-risk population for years to come.

Provide assistance for CCBHC’s to qualify for state and federal funding- Recent state legislation has provided funding for 26 non-profit CCBHS’s (certified community behavioral health clinics) to increase pay for healthcare workers and infrastructure. We are facing a staffing crisis due to low pay and increased workloads. If we can provide support to bring local clinics up to required standards, services will be more readily available for communities of need.

Fund Community Health Navigators and Patient Databases- Too often our services begin and end with a brief stay in COMCARE. Many times, the only benefit of going through COMCARE is a person can get diagnosed. Funding and supporting government employees who are familiar with the system and can direct people and families in need to the resources that are best suited for their particular situations, including follow up treatment options, will help ensure that people and families can continue on the road to recovery.

Increase access to Transportation- The current transportation system is lacking. We need to ensure that effective means of public transportation is available in low-income areas where lack of reliable transportation leads to additional barriers for those seeking treatment. More efficient bus routes are a must, but we need to be open minded about possible solutions, whether it be working in tandem with ride share programs, or shuttle programs similar to the model in Topeka.