Wednesday, October 26, 2005 my opinion, of course...

I know posting this isn't going to change anything, but I really feel the need to post this, because though it might not change anything, I do believe it will be read here, and sometimes just reading something can make you think about something differently in the future.

In that light, I suppose it COULD make a difference! isn't THAT cool how that works....

Kinda like how myself and probably around a hundred other girls I know will never hear the REAL lyrics ever again whenever we hear the song, "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne. I KNOW I left those dang forceps on the ground! ;) [Inside joke for those who are now confused...HA!]

Funny how reading or hearing something once can change how you think about that specific topic in the future, whether you ACT on it or not! ;)

This is an article I saw online in the Star-Telegram (a Dallas/Fort Worth newspaper). It pertains to an issue I really care about:

[Note: Tarrant County is the county in which Fort Worth and Arlington, and other neighboring "cities" reside in; however, it does not include the Dallas side of the Metroplex]

Survey: Mentally ill need more help

Star-Telegram staff writer

Without health insurance, someone who makes minimum wage stands little chance of getting treated for a mental illness.

"They can barely put gas in their car, much less afford a psychiatrist," said Lauralee Harris, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Tarrant County. "And medications are expensive."

A lack of insurance coverage is only one of the many barriers that the mentally ill face. Counselors who work with adolescent boys are in especially short supply. There is a lack of federal and state dollars to pay for costly, long-term treatment.

At the same time, the number of people who need help keeps growing. Last year about 21,500 households went without needed mental health care services, according to the 2005 United Way Assessment of Tarrant County Health and Human Service Needs.

Community leaders call the scarcity of mental health services the 10th most serious problem facing Tarrant County during the next three years, the assessment found.

Texas has consistently ranked in the bottom 10 percent of states per capita in mental health spending in all program areas except for research, according to the Mental Health Association of Texas. In 2003, the state's mental health agency budget was cut by $50 million.

The stigma associated with mental illness has also kept some people from getting help, often until they spiral into a crisis that demands long-term treatment. "People often don't realize the value of treatment for mental health," Harris said. "They realize the value of treatment for the flu, a cold, certainly any kind of injury, but often think mental health issues will go away on their own."

Much has been done in the area to provide services to adults and children with mental illnesses, but the demands are great. On any given month, MHMR of Tarrant County serves 5,200 adults and 800 children, all with serious mental illnesses.

Medication, rehabilitation and counseling are among the services that are needed for serious conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

"We provide the kind of services that are intended to keep people functioning in the community," said Susan Garnett, chief operating officer MHMR Tarrant County.

But those services are intended for the most seriously ill, and many who need help do not qualify.

Harris described one man who suffers from depression but goes without treatment because he does not have insurance and cannot pay to see a psychiatrist. "Prozac is effective, but he does not have access to it; so he turns to alcohol or street drugs, both of which get him in a lot of trouble," she said.

Left untreated, a mental illness can lead to greater despair for the individual and ultimately become more costly for everyone, she said.

Harris said the region needs an integrated system to address the growing demand for treatment among those with chronic mental illnesses.

"We're going to have to have a dramatic overhaul of the system," she said.

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