State Must Renew Attention to Behavioral Health Services

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 4, 2016 | Go to article overview

State Must Renew Attention to Behavioral Health Services


Byline: Karen Ayala Guest columnist

I recently testified in support of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Section 1115 Research and Demonstration Waiver application.

As Illinois considers the future transformation plan, it should be cautioned that the capacity for behavioral health services must be restored or rebuilt in order to adequately address the needs of the population. The failure in the past to care for individuals with behavioral health issues has affected our education, criminal justice and local health systems. Our economy has suffered, as resources have been diverted to treat the consequences rather than the cause of the problem.

The DuPage County Health Department is one of many local organizations providing behavioral health care services. We have successfully implemented programs that seek to provide integrated care in the most efficient manner for the taxpayers. The primary effort, called MYCARE, to integrate physical and behavioral health services has demonstrated significant improvement in participants' physical and mental health status. It is vitally important that coordination of services focus on the patient's needs rather than independent funding streams.

Our behavioral health services treat 6,000 adults and an additional 6,000 children and teenagers monthly. Clearly, in mental health, as in all chronic health care conditions, the concept of disease prevention and early intervention are key to successfully mitigating the impact of the illness.

To that point, the proposal of this waiver to invest in early childhood mental health support is a wise one. Early intervention can reduce behavioral issues that disrupt schools and families, taxing both financially and emotionally and often leading to increased mental illness and even interaction with the criminal justice system. The failure to provide behavioral health services only exacerbates the problem, delaying the inevitable while causing other problems in society that must be addressed.

The sobering statistics from the Urban Institute in 2015 estimated that 56 percent of individuals in state prisons suffer from mental health issues. Each year, over 10,000 inmates are released into society. Improved access to behavioral health care can reduce the number of people who end up in the criminal justice system while suffering from mental illness. …

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State Must Renew Attention to Behavioral Health Services
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