May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and with it came a need to bring awareness regarding what a community mental health center provides.
Craig Mental Health is and has been the community mental health center in Moffat County for more than 20 years. This agency is a branch of Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center (CW), a private not-for-profit corporation. We are neither a state nor federal agency. Funding for the corporation comes in the form of Medicaid (49 percent); state contracts (18 percent) and client fees (12.5 percent).
As the community mental health center CW must offer a sliding fee scale. This means discounting our full fee for service by as much as 75 percent in some cases. Donated services is the amount of service we provide to the people in our service area at less than full fee. In fiscal year 2000, Colorado West's total donated services were $41,606,491. Locally, Craig Mental Health donated $82,297 or 77 percent of client revenues to the Craig community.
Community mental health centers are required to provide mental health treatment to consumers meeting "targeted" criteria, in all ages. In effect, people who have been diagnosed with one of the major mental illnesses i.e.: major depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, etc., must be provided treatment regardless of ability to pay. In fiscal year 2000, Craig Mental Health treated 557 consumers, of those, 217 were diagnosed with a serious mental illness, 245 had other mental health issues and 96 were treated for substance abuse problems. Thus 32 percent of the clients receiving treatment met the criteria to receive treatment whether they could pay for services or not.
However, of the remaining client base only about 25 percent had the ability to pay the full fee or had commercial insurance. This leaves somewhere close to 200 clients who sought mental health or substance abuse treatment but lacked the resources to pay the full fees for that treatment.
Because it is our belief that untreated mental illness can exacerbate and lead to life crisis, we try to provide treatment even to the working poor of the community who do not meet criteria for state subsidy. This is when we look to the Craig and Moffat community for help.
We seek funding from United Way, Moffat County and the city of Craig. We work in close partnership with the Department of Social Services to find funds to help families in crisis obtain treatment. We are finding, though, that these revenues are slowly, but steadily drying up.. The funding we receive from the Craig community has been reduced this year to a total of $8,000, which is in sharp contrast to the $15,000 we received in fiscal year 1998.
Decreased finding has come at a time when we are seeing an increase in the severity of mental illness symptoms.
To shed light on how this impacts the community at large consider these this: When your neighbor or loved one faces some traumatic life event such as losing a job, a break up in a relationship, or finds they have a serious physical illness, these things can cause the onset of a mental illness such as depression. Then suppose that the person does not have the resources to pay for treatment. The symptoms of depression may be ignored until the ability to function in everyday life is impaired. This in turn impacts the functioning of the family as well as the community. As the symptoms worsen, there is a likelihood of suicidal thinking, which can lead to more serious problems. Should some member of our community actually make an attempt at suicide a variety of agencies become involved to include law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, crisis team and mental health. This drains community resources not to mention the terrible emotional toll it takes on those involved with the attempt.
The provision of emergency services is another requirement of the funding CW receives from the state. We are mandated to evaluate for suicidality, homicidality and grave disability due to mental illness. In fiscal year 2000 of the 335 emergency calls we responded to only 26 met the state mandate. Meaning 26 people were involuntarily hospitalized due to mental illness. Ninety-three people seen for emergency services were not clients of the mental health center, but members of the community who were suffering some type of emotional/mental distress. Again, in fulfilling our mission of providing mental health and substance abuse services to enhance the ability of individuals, families and communities to improve the quality of their lives we attempt to be available in emergency situations. However, as funding decreases we find ourselves in the difficult dilemma of having to choose to which emergencies we can afford to respond.
As we move through the month of May and our awareness of mental health is heightened we seek assistance from the Craig community in helping us to identify ways in which we can obtain the revenues needed to support the on-going mental health treatment needs of this community. If you are interested in being involved with your local community mental health center we have a Local Advisory Council which helps guide us in the delivery of services. Please contact Barb Seed at 824-6541 for more information.