mental health

VALLEY FALLS, Kansas — Dennis Ritchey stands in the kitchen of his modest apartment. He calls it efficient, but likes that it has plenty of cabinets.

The Mountain West has disproportionately high rates of depressive disorders and suicide. Researchers are trying to find out why. Turns out, the mountains themselves might have something to do with it. 

Disability rights advocates are arguing Kansas is “warehousing” hundreds of people with mental health issues in nursing homes.

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas said in a report that a lack of funding for community mental health services and other obstacles make it hard for the 600 people in the nursing facilities to transition out.  

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address behavioral health needs of Kansans from birth to 21 years.

Kansas lawmakers restored mental health funding for Sedgwick County’s Community Crisis Center and two other mental health centers Wednesday.

A task force that studied the increasing youth suicide rate in Kansas released its final report and recommendations Tuesday to improve the state’s response.

The Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force says youth suicide is a major public health issue, and the state needs to take immediate action.

A task force created by the Kansas Legislature recommends adding inpatient psychiatric beds immediately to help solve the ongoing crisis in the state’s behavioral health system.

That’s one of 23 recommendations in a new report presented to the state Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

The state Department of Human Services plans on freezing all state-run beds set aside for people with severe mental illness at Fort Logan and the Colorado Mental Health Institute and use the space for people charged with crimes and in need of competency treatment.

The move, which includes about 20 beds for juveniles, virtually cuts off all state beds for mentally ill people — except those who are currently awaiting competency restoration in jail.

The song says "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  But for some, the holiday cannot come and go soon enough because with them come the holiday blues - that feeling of anxiety and depression that can surge at the holidays. But what about more persistent mental illness? How do we as a society handle that?

Doug Delaney calls his North Dallas home a funky McMansion, with a sprawling garden of cacti, trees and wild grasses covering the entire backyard.

Almost 300 mentally ill people across the state have been in jail for months — before being convicted of anything — because state officials say there is not enough room at the mental health hospital to treat them before they stand trial.

Some of those people, many of whom face low-level charges like trespassing, have been in a county jail cell for more than 100 days. At least one man has been there more than 200 days.

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Texas has long had a psychiatrist shortage. In fact, as Texas Standard reports, 73 percent of counties in the Lone Star State have no psychiatrists at all. In the panhandle, the problem is particularly pronounced.

Karen Duong, a psychiatry resident at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, did her internal medicine training in Hereford, in the Texas Panhandle.

From Texas Standard:

Putting mental health services into primary care clinics is an idea that’s gained traction in recent years. In Texas, it came about partly out of necessity after the state mental health care system streamlined its services over a decade ago. An unintended consequence was that people with less severe mental health issues ended up seeking care in community clinics that weren’t fully equipped to care for them.

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Oklahoma’s foster care system has been beleaguered by high rates of abuse and neglect for years.

And, as The Tulsa World reports, much of that child abuse is due to Oklahoma’s high levels of meth addiction, with the state’s opioid addiction struggles adding to the problem in recent years.

Shelby Tauber / The Texas Tribune

  Texas Health and Human Services officials announced Monday that they are receiving $47.7 million to begin needed construction for existing state hospitals, some of which are more than a century old.

From The Texas Tribune:

Texas leaders are taking the first steps to make long-awaited fixes to state hospitals built in the 19th and 20th centuries that serve Texans who need mental health services.  

A mental health organization in Kansas is seeking solutions from the state after a national report shows ongoing disparities in mental health coverage.

A Democratic candidate for Kansas governor says the Brownback administration is bent on privatizing a key mental health facility.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has unveiled a proposal to build a new mental hospital at Osawatomie, which a Tennessee company would run.

But Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward says the agency should be exploring in-house options.

"This administration has a terrible history of privatization. Whether it be child support collection, DCF, KanCare,” Ward says.

In voting for a $1.2 billion tax increase to bolster the budget for the next two years, the Kansas Legislature avoided a projected $900 budget hole and began restoring past cuts to the mental health system.

Kansas Department of Corrections

Nearly 150 mental health inmates currently held at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility will be transferred to the El Dorado Correctional Facility, as part of plan to convert the former into a medium-security prison.

A new law will allow Kansas crisis centers to treat involuntary mental health patients for up to 72 hours, but it isn’t clear if lawmakers will fund it.

Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed House Bill 2053, which allows crisis centers to treat people deemed a danger to themselves or others because of a mental health or substance use disorder. The bill had passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 27-12 after some amendments. 

Lee Winder / Creative Commons

The Texas House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would encourage schools to offer mental health services.

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Scores of Kansans concerned about inadequate mental health resources visited the Kansas Statehouse on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to take notice of the issue. 

KHI News Service File

While staff vacancies at two state-run psychiatric hospitals in Kansas are down, state officials say there is still room for improvement.

Ben Fenwick / Oklahoma Watch

Over the next decade, Oklahoma will need three more prisons if the state doesn’t take action to constrain the prison population, which as The Oklahoman reports, is projected to increase by 25 percent over the next 10 years.

That is more than 7,000 additional prisoners.

ivn.us

Rural Americans continue to struggle to find adequate mental health care. That’s despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act guaranteed that mental and behavioral health treatment would be covered by all health insurance policies sold on the federal health exchange.

However, as IVN reports, psychological coverage does little good if you live in an area where no services are available.

Rural Blog

When it comes to mental health and veterans, rural soldiers are less likely to receive help than their urban counterparts, reports The Rural Blog.

Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

In many rural areas, maintaining mental health can sometimes come down to finding a ride.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, Transportation is often a barrier for rural dwellers seeking mental health or substance abuse treatment.

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In some parts of rural America, the shortage of mental health professionals has reached crisis level. Yet many states still refuse to support mental health through tax dollars. Experts say America today needs more than 30,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists. Yet the country has fewer than a third of that number, And the need is rising, reports The Rural Blog.

University of Houston/KHOU

College can be extremely isolating and stressful. Some students begin drinking too much or turn to drugs, and some even consider suicide. When Texas students find themselves in dire straits, their options are limited.

The counseling centers at Texas universities are understaffed. According to KERA News and The Texas Tribune, many counselors say they’re frustrated by their inability to reach students.

What appears at first blush to be little more than a contract dispute between a state agency and a University of Kansas research center is actually much more than that.

The state’s failure to renew a contract with the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation is another assault on the state's mental health system, according to the directors of several community mental health centers.

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