Mental health proposal may bring changes locally

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's proposal to add $8.5 million to the state budget for mental health services may have a broad reaching effect on the healthcare system.

Frank Compton, chief executive officer for the Clark Community Mental Health Center, said details on Nixon's proposal have not been released but the target for funding is known.

"I'm sure he's going to try to get people to come in to screen people before they get in the hospitals to get pressure off of emergency care," Compton said. "We can't continue to rely on emergency rooms to do this job for us."

The first sign of an episode or breakdown will often surface when a family takes a patient to the hospital emergency room for help.

"Chances are pretty good that they are not going to get mental health care or treatment for mental health problems," Compton said. "We've got to strengthen their ability to intercept people before they get to the hospital."

Compton sees a different partnership developing between the mental health community and the critical care healthcare industry.

"I think we're going to have to partner with acute care hospitals to have somebody available really quickly to help them assess someone coming in for mental health problems," Compton said.

In addition, Compton foresees budgeting for a mental health liaison to work with the hospitals and the courts to have people assessed for mental health problems.

Compton plans to attend a meeting of the Missouri Coalition of Community Mental Health Centers in Jefferson City on Feb. 12, where he expects more details on the governor's plan will be revealed. On the following day, Compton and his colleagues plan to discuss mental health issues with state legislators.

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