Fast Focus: How can we improve mental health care in the Tri-Cities? Improvement requires money

May 12, 2013 

There are three areas that the Mid-Columbia can improve upon with regard to mental health care. One is the creation of a mental health service center (also called a triage center or consolidated crisis response center) where people in crisis can be evaluated, stabilized and receive appropriate medical treatment. Too often we hear there are "no beds" available in the Tri-Cities so a person in crisis ends up being sent to Yakima or somewhere outside for evaluation. Providing valuable family support is much more difficult when this happens. It also costs the community by tying up law enforcement and emergency department personnel.

The second improvement should be implementation of a mental health court. Often, a person who is decompensating or experiencing a crisis, most likely from not having or not taking proper medication, ends up in jail. A mental health court, when appropriate, works with a person living with mental illness to arrive at the best possible outcome in the least restrictive environment.

An informational presentation on this very subject is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 6 at the Mid-Columbia Library, Union St., Kennewick. The 5150 To Recovery, a non-profit foundation started by Kevin Kennedy and his family (featured in a Tri-City Herald article March 23, 2013) is bringing court officials from Spokane County to provide information about their community's mental health court. We plan to attend to learn more about Spokane County's mental health court system.

Finally, the third area that we think is sadly lacking in the Tri-Cities is a meeting place where people who live with mental illness can gather and ideally be in a safe, stigma-free environment to interact socially. Of course, all of these improvements cost money and that is why we think our community should vote to implement a 0.1 percent sales tax increase to help fund these vital programs that could benefit people living with mental illness and their families.

-- JUDY and JOHN COX, Richland

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