The Editorial Board: New Behavioral Health Centers are a Good Start to Tackle a Mental Health Crisis | Editorial

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According to government statistics, one in five adults in the United States suffers from some form of mental illness. With one in 20, this disease is serious. In America, there is one death by suicide approximately every 11 minutes.

These grim statistics must be part of the reason New York State committed $171 million to develop a comprehensive behavioral health crisis response system available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, with two of its centers located in Western New York.

One is an intensive crisis stabilization center, open 24/7 for anyone requiring assessment, care and treatment, which will be operated by BestSelf Behavioral Health. BestSelf submitted the winning proposal and secured over $8 million to expand its facilities on Niagara Street.

The other Western New York stabilization center will focus on supportive care for those recovering and undergoing treatment. An organization to manage this facility has not yet been identified.

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There is also a new suicide hotline: Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (dial/text 998). Mobile crisis teams are planned.

These are essential and necessary services that are finally receiving an influx of resources. But it’s not just the mentally ill in crisis. According to many professionals in the field, the system we have to deal with mental illness has itself been fragmented and underfunded at a point close to the crisis.

“How do we follow people over time? asks Dr. Steven Dubovsky. “Who pays for comprehensive integrated care? Dubovsky, chair of psychiatry in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, considers the western New York area as a whole to be “one of the most underserved areas in the world.” countries in the area of ​​psychiatry”, in particular with regard to rural areas. .

He argues that solutions must go beyond the most recent disaster and trauma, adding that crisis management must evolve into longer-term interactions that follow people over time with comprehensive integrated care.

Another expert, Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, agrees, noting: “Today, for people with mental illness, what they typically find is a very fragmented system. . There is no one responsible. There is no one there for the whole trip.

The history of the evolution of the treatment of mental illness during the second half of the 20th century is well known. State hospitals across the United States have been closed, with beds cut from 600,000 to 34,000 beds, according to Insel’s recent book, “Healing.” In many cases, jails and prisons have become mental institutions by default.

In the meantime, Insel notes, outpatient facilities have stepped up to help those in need of mental care, with combinations of medication, psychotherapy and recuperative services, what Insell calls enhanced care management. The problem is that these services are underfunded in the US healthcare system. It’s a frustrating paradox. Caregivers with mental illness have treatments that may work, but the facilities are underfunded and health insurance is often not there to cover them.

Dubovsky cites another hurdle: It can take six months to find an adult psychiatrist and nine months to find a child psychiatrist, even if insurance is there to pay for the visits.

Clearly, the country still has a long way to go before a robust and accessible mental health care system is in place, but at least the influx of federal dollars that helps fund centers like the two planned for Buffalo recognizes this problem.

Those managing these resources must listen to experts like Dubovsky and Insel, who have studied mental health in America for decades. The good news is that we have the will, treatments that work, and finally recognition in the form of state and federal support.

Hopefully Buffalo’s new Crisis Stabilization Centers are just the start.

Need help? Here are some resources:

• Crisis services, 716-834-3131, crisesservices.org: Crisis Services is a proven resource for its 24/7 helpline and more. This help is always free.

• Mental Health Advocates of WNY, 716-886-1242, mhawny.org: Non-clinical services that promote mental wellness and provide assistance in navigating the mental health service delivery system.

• Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: dial/text 998

What is your opinion? Send it to us at [email protected] Letters should be a maximum of 300 words and should express an opinion. The column does not print poetry, community event announcements, or thank-you letters. A writer or household can only appear once every 30 days. All letters are subject to fact checking and editing.

Maria J. Book