Johnson County is entering into new territory with the regional authority mandated by the state. It is already apparent that state funding will be inadequate to maintain the level of services Johnson County has traditionally provided. The County needs to work aggressively with the state legislature to ensure that state funding is increased to allow Johnson County to continue to provide its excellent services to this community.
In early 2017 the state's misguided and failed Medicaid Privatization program resulted in the loss of 23 case workers at the county's Mental Health/Disability Services Department.
Building the "Access Center"
After years of planning and discussion, the Board of Supervisors finally made an offer for land on which to build the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center. The evolution of the county's Crisis Intervention Training program, the BHUCC will provide yet another jail alternative, providing the care people need while decreasing the demands on law enforcement.
People living with mental heal and addiction issues are not criminals and should not be treated as such.
ENDING THE STIGMA
One of the biggest obstacles to mental health access for many is the stigma that remains attached to mental illness. People would never dream of rejecting or not sympathizing with a person with cancer, but illnesses that effect the mind cause fear and trepidation in too many people. The answer to stigma is education about the realities of mental illness: it is treatable and even preventable in some cases. Given one in four have a mental illness in any given year, we all know someone affected by this epidemic.
MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID
Mental Health First Aid is just what it sounds like: Just as you may have learned physical first aid in scouts or at summer camp, Mental Health First Aid is an in-person training that teaches how to help people developing a mental illness, or in a crisis. It is not a replacement for mental health care, just as stopping the bleeding before the ambulance arrives is not a replacement for medical care.
Kurt Friese supports mandating Mental Health First Aid training for all government employees, and would support any effort to mandate teaching it in the schools.
Friese also understands that addiction is a symptom of a larger problem, and that, as Johann Hari says in his TEDTalk, "It's not the chemical. It's the cage." This is why he supports the creation of a full-time, permanent low-barrier shelter inside the BHUCC where people struggling with addiction can find a safe place, free from judgement, and hopefully get on the road to recovery.