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Mental Health Issues Plague Rural Communities

BRANSON, Mo. -- Taney Co. and other isolated areas often lack access to treatment for behavioral issues, mood disorders and substance abuse
BRANSON, Mo. -- Many of Missouri's most isolated communities do not have access to care and treatment for mood disorders and substance abuse.

In the Branson area, many patients end up in Richard blubaugh's emergency room at Cox Hospital.

“It's usually a crisis situation,” Blubaugh explained. “You know, where it's sort of boiled to the top and they end up here and we're the safety net.”

Data from the Missouri Dept. of Health and Human Services credit mental health and substance abuse for more than 1,000 ER visits in Taney Co.

“The cost is exhorbitant,” Blubaugh said. “Labor and the cost of the care we have to provide and the resources we have to provide are very high.”

Blubaugh explained that mental health and substance abuse patients require extra resources such as an isolated room or a dedicated nurse. Many patients are uninsured and the hospital ends up absorbing the cost.

Robert Niezgoda, the assistant director of the Taney Co. Health Dept., said mental health problems appear in many of the community health assessments and surveys his department facilitates.

“Those issues will impact the individual but the families will suffer because of those issues,” Niezgoda explained. “And then that has the potential to affect schools, the healthcare services that are receiving those patients.”

Mental health emergencies often take resources away from first responders...ambulance districts and law enforcement. Similar situations also burden the legal system.
“It's really rearing it's ugly head in society,” said Joe Allen, a Branson attorney who works represents several clients he believes could benefit more from treatment than incarceration.

“The common denominator in all of these cases is some kind of mental health issue,” he said. “With many of these people, it's something that could have been recognized, diagnosed and treated in the past.”

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