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County faces gaps in mental health needs

When asked what they wanted, Anna Olson and Jane Callaway explained they weren't asking for anything, but just wanted to provide information to the Douglas County Board of commissioners.

Olson and Callaway, who are on the Douglas County Local Advisory Council on Mental Health, presented information at last week's regular Douglas County Board meeting.

The two told the commissioners they wanted them to be aware of some of the unmet and/or under-serviced mental health needs within the county.

Safe and affordable housing, according to Olson and Callaway, continues to be the number one concern for the mental health population. The waiting lists, they said, are extremely long and the "Bridges program" does not have enough funding to assist those on their waiting list or take new applicants.

There continues to be a wait for consumers to access both psychiatric and therapy services at the local mental health clinic for both new and existing patients.

In a letter to the commissioners, the Douglas County Local Advisory Council on Mental Health noted it was in support of the on-going integrated/shared care movement within the health care system and would like to it continue.

Access to local dental care for mental health patients continues to be an issue, they said, but noted that the addition of both the Caring Hands Dental and Gentle and Cosmetic Dentistry clinics has alleviated some of the obstacles. The waiting lists, however, continue to be long.

There seems to be a shortage of guardian, conservator and representative payee service providers in Douglas County for vulnerable adults. When asked about this, Callaway noted that it would be helpful to have choices and that there is maybe one or two in the area that offer these services. Olson said it would be "nice to have a variety."

The two also shared goals the local advisory council has for the upcoming year. One of the goals is educating teachers and students on mental health issues in the child population to help reduce stigma. The council plans to be a part of organizing this effort.

The council would also like to see continued improvement in mental health services in Douglas County. A vision for 2011 that the local advisory council has is to provide a packet of information for mental health consumers that would be available at the local clinics, Lakeland Mental Health Center, Douglas County Social Services and Community Behavioral Health Hospital. The packet of information would include a list of mental health services in the county and information on how to access those services.

Commissioner Paul Anderson thanked Olson and Callaway for their time and information.

"We admire your dedication and thank you for bringing this to our attention," he said.