We know what it takes to help reduce the effect of mental illness on people, families and communities: prevention, intervention, effective crisis response and adequate ongoing treatments. For years, these services have been chronically underfunded, which not only hurts people but puts unnecessary strain on the social safety net, health care system, and corrections system.
And that’s why too often the stories of mental illness are stories of tragedy. We see them playing out around us every day. People living in fear and confusion without help or support. Conditions worsening while loved ones watch helplessly. Lost jobs, lost hopes, and sadly, sometimes lost lives.
But in Oregon, I see us starting to write a new story.
Integrating mental and physical health is a key component of our new Medicaid coordinated care organizations and we are starting to hear more about how it’s working in local communities. For example in Jackson County, Oregon Health Plan member Shawna Shoffner credits her patient-centered primary care home for helping her cope after the death of her son in an accident four years ago.
She was suffering from depression and severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) over the loss of her son. She also was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a long-term, chronic illness causing body-wide pain. Her health care team got her into grief counseling, group therapy and a pain management group. Today she is doing much better.
Beyond the CCOs, both the Governor and state lawmakers are calling for substantial increases in community mental health funding for outcome-based services that will help children, families and adults.
Earlier this week Sen. Peter Courtney announced he will be looking for ways to fully fund Oregon’s mental health treatment needs. The senator has been a long-time champion for people with mental illness. He was the force behind the new state hospital and the great strides we have made in changing OSH to a place of hope and recovery. I am proud to work with him in taking on the challenge of improving community mental health to the same degree.
Years from now I believe that we will look back at this time as a turning point for mental health care in our state.