As I sat in on the discussion between legislators and professionals about health issues facing Jackson County, I couldn’t help but feel like the task of fixing the mental health system was a daunting one.

More than 10 people who understand the mental health system far better than I, stood up and talked about the issues facing the system.

I started to get the picture that mental health issues are one of the leading causes of our drug epidemic and it also leads to several other issues in the county.

It was explained that police officers were being taken off of the streets to sit with someone in the hospital while they find a placement that can handle their mental health crisis. Another professional explained that the mental health issues are a driving factor for the drug epidemic. Yet another professional explained that the mental health issues and drug epidemic were leading to more severe cases in the foster care system.

By no means am I qualified to offer solutions, but as I sat there I realized that the mental health system really is in crisis.

Even though the mental health system is in crisis, I sat in awe of the professionals standing before me talking about these issues. There were nearly 20 people in attendance that were doing a tremendous job with limited resources at fighting this mental health epidemic.

Quite frankly, I think we should have more of them. We should be standing behind them whenever possible and offering more funding for their needs.

All I know is that we need to reduce the number of people with mental health crises because it is a drag on our economy and our state.

Several times I heard opportunities for the county to save money and reduce its tax burden.

For instance, if we could reduce the stress level on the social workers working in child protective services, we could retain them for longer. If we can retain these employees for a longer period of time, we could reduce the turnover costs and also reduce the time foster children spend in foster care. It was stated that for every change in a social worker, it adds six months to a foster child’s case. Keep in mind we are all paying for the services that child gets while in foster care, so an added six months is just more money out of our taxes.

It was learning of instances like this where I began to wonder if we needed to start taking a more proactive look at our mental health crisis. Start funding these program now so it isn’t a bigger problem down the line.

Keep in mind if we don’t fix these issues now, more children will grow up in unfit households and have mental health issues of their own.

As time goes on and we have more mental health issues, that means less people working and paying taxes and more people using tax dollars to pay for their services.

It all goes in a circle and if we don’t nip it in the butt now, we may never get the chance.

Mental health issues are a big problem in Jackson County and across the nation, whether we’d like to believe it or not.

As I’ve met more and more people in the mental health field, the more I have learned that we need to do more.

I hate taxes just as much as the next person, but sometimes we need to fix the problem before it is unfixable.

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