The Spokesman-Review: To pivot from community behavioral health crisis, state leaders must act

April 6, 2023

By Jeff Thomas, Jodi Daly and Tom Sebastian

Over the past three years, we’ve all faced COVID-related challenges that have caused serious disruption to our daily life and wellbeing. And across our communities, the impact is becoming increasingly evident.

More adults and children are suffering from anxiety, depression and other behavioral health disorders than ever before, and other concerns, such as homelessness, have evolved into crises.

As community behavioral health providers, we’re working tirelessly to address these concerns and connect those in need to care, but unfortunately, we’re also facing an entirely separate crisis that we cannot solve alone.

Community behavioral health is experiencing an unprecedented workforce shortage that has been building for years due to chronic underfunding. As demand for our services continues to increase, we’re unable to attract and retain enough mental health providers to keep pace with our communities’ needs.

It is a crisis that threatens the very health of our clients, our local economies and our partners across the social safety net.

Community behavioral health agencies serve low-income adults and youth who qualify for Medicaid benefits as well as provide crisis and inpatient services for all those in our communities. We address and de-escalate mental health crises and connect individuals to sustained supports, preventing trips to the emergency department or jail and supporting more efficient use of our law enforcement and hospital partners’ limited resources. Our services and programs help alleviate homelessness, support healthy families and assist individuals in living independently and gaining employment.

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