Missouri lawmaker open to spending more money on mental health resources

Regional News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Nearly a quarter of Missouri’s adult population suffered from a mental illness in the last year, according to the state’s Department of Mental Health.

One Republican lawmaker wants the state to discuss what needs to be done to help Missourians have access to resources. Last year, more than a million Missouri residents struggled with a mental illness. That’s more than 100,000 adults from 2019. Sen. Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) said where the state is lacking in resources is access and response time.

“I think our mental health system is there, I think the framework is there, and I think the providers are there, but we need to have real conversations about access,” Hough said Monday.

The past 18 months have affected everyone in one way or another.

“When you’re oftentimes isolated, a lot of us, we were trying to be safe, we were trying to do the right thing but that also takes a toll not just on you but on your loved ones,” Hough said.

Over the years, the number of adults in Missouri suffering from a mental illness has increased, according to Missouri’s Division of Behavioral Health. In 2016, 862,000 Missourians struggled with a mental illness. Three years later, in 2019, that number was up to 925,000 and in 2020, it increased again to 1,056,000.

According to the department, mental illness is higher among young adults, 31% compared to adults over 25 with 21%. Here in Missouri, both of those rates are about three percentage points higher than the national rates.

“I don’t want people to be turned away when they make that step to say I need some help,” Hough said. “There’s no one silver bullet that fixes all of this. This is a complicated and complex illness and manifests itself differently in different people.”

Hough, who spoke out last week for Mental Health Awareness Week, said in an editorial letter, that this “silent epidemic” in Missouri needs attention.

“I’d like for there to be zero wait time for mental health access for individuals in this state,” Hough said. “I don’t want to see anyone that reaches out and says that they need either someone to talk to or some sort of intervention. I don’t want to see them turned away for any reason.”

He said there have been significant investments in mental health care over the years. Hough said Missouri has collaborated between Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Certified Community Behavioral Health Organizations (CCBHO) that focus on physical health and mental health diagnoses. This has led to lower overall health care costs due to decreases in emergency room visits and inpatient stays, Hough’s letter went on to say.

“I want to work with provider networks that we have around the state, and I want to find out where those gaps are,” Hough said. “This isn’t something that we can just throw money at but if there are things we can do through the budget, through the appropriations process. I want to make sure the providers have the necessary funding to take care of the people in this state.”

Compared to last year, the state increased the DMH’s budget by more than 300 million dollars with money going to establish six new crisis centers for mental health and substance use treatment. Of the $2.74 billion budget for DMH in 2022, $11,387,627 will go to the Division of Behavioral Health to serve an additional 2,000 Missourians with severe mental illness or substance use disorder.

If you or someone you know is looking for resources, visit dmh.mo.gov for help.

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