Commissioners discuss mental health needs

Less than half of Marion County residents who would benefit from mental health care are receiving treatment.

That’s what Jessie Kaye, president and CEO of Prairie View Mental Health Center, told Marion County commissioners Monday.

Kaye, who has worked with Prairie View for 13 years, said 20 percent of people in Kansas suffer from some form of mental illness.

Prairie View treats a total of 1,160 patients in Marion County, which amounts to nine percent of the county’s population.

“That means 11 in 100 people may not be receiving the services they need,” Kaye said.

This is, in part, a money issue, Kaye said.

Over the past decade, state and federal funding to Prairie View has decreased by $800,000.

Kaye said the funding cuts come at a time when the cost of treatment and the number of people in need of treatment have both increased.

Prairie View has a “monumental task” to keep up with increase in mental health issues, said Dianne Novak, chair of the Marion County Board of Commis­sioners.

The problem is especially prevalent in Marion County, Kaye said.

Marion County is in the bottom third of the state in per capita funding for community mental health clinics. Marion ranks 71st among the state’s 105 counties, according to data provided by Prairie View.

Prairie View is one of 26 community mental health care clinics in the state. The average county per capita funding for each of the clinics in 2017 was $7.60.

Last year, Prairie View received $5.37 per capita from Marion County—nearly 30 percent less than the state average.

On behalf of Prairie View, Kaye asked the county to prioritize funding for mental health treatment. She asked the commissioners for a yearly increase in funding, with a goal of meeting or exceeding the state average.

Increasing funding to mental health clinics comes with a laundry list of benefits to the community, Kaye said.

She said effective mental health treatment reduces crime and health care costs while increasing community safety and overall productivity.

Novak asked if mental health issues have an effect on suicide.

“It seems you hear about suicide more and more and more,” Novak said.

Suicide is directly related to mental health issues more often than not, Kaye said.

The suicide rate in Kansas is 21 percent higher than the nationwide average, according to data provided by Prairie View.

“The suicide rate is higher in more rural areas,” Kaye said. “For a number of reasons, including lack of access to mental health services.”

Kaye said the county should invest in crisis prevention, rather than damage control.

“What if we could be proactive enough to begin to treat mental illness before it escalates to the point of being suicidal or homicidal,” Kaye said. “Or walking down a highway without appropriate clothing, thinking they’re going to California.”

Commissioner Kent Becker agreed: “We should be proactive rather than reactive.”­