Lisa Long, a writer and single mother from Boise, wrote an article for the BSU on-line magazine, The Blue Review, that has gone viral on the internet. Anyone who has a relative, friend, or knows anyone related to someone with mental health issues the same or similar to those of Lisa’s son empathizes with her situation and, given the lack of adequate care for children (and adults) coping with mental illness, realizes her sense of helplessness. Parents like Lisa are forced to put their children into the criminal system before they are able to get any help.
When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.
Unfortunately, not everyone has empathy for Lisa and other parents like her. Yesterday she was forced to go on national television and defend her article.
According to Kathie Garrett, a former legislator and current chair of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Council, Idaho ranks near the bottom for Mental Health Care funding.
We want to see more awareness so people understand people with mental illness are no more dangerous than the rest of the population, especially when they have availability to good mental health services,” said Garrett.
But that access to mental health services can sometimes be tough to come by. NAMI says fewer than one-third of people with mental illness receive treatment. Garrett says that can be attributed to the stigma associated with mental illness, and also, recent cuts in funding.
Garrett says, since 2009, Idaho cut funding to its state mental health clinics by 22%. “They restrict services to people who are only in crisis, or are there, because they were ordered by courts… We have a crisis in our mental health system.”
Idaho ranks near the bottom in the nation for mental healthcare funding. Garrett tells us she understands budgeting and the tough economic times. But she believes getting that care to people who need it, when they need it, is worth the money.
“We want to give people treatment as soon as possible,” said Garrett. “We want to see that happen. We don’t want to see a tragedy like that happen in Idaho.”
When it comes to the Idaho State Legislature, Lisa’s cries for help fall on deaf ears.