Advocates Want Better Mental Health Care

9 years 10 months 2 days ago January 31, 2007 Jan 31, 2007 Wednesday, January 31 2007 Wednesday, January 31, 2007 6:00:32 PM CST in News

John Bryant is a Kansas City policeman and actively involved with Missouri Partners in Crisis. He was one of about 50 who rallied in the Capitol rotunda.

"I have a son who has a severe mental illness. The funding has been cut to the point where, he's a juvenile, and I had to turn partial custody of my child over to the state of Missouri to get the funding for him, to get the assistance for his mental issues," said Bryant.

Nancy Leazer, an administrator at a correctional facility in Kansas City, co-chairs the group.

"We went out into the community and brought in some of the professionals who have helped us look at our population. We now know that 50 to 60 percent of the population have mental illnesses," said Leazer.

Leazer thought those numbers were alarming.

"What was happening is that these folks, just coming into our facility get sentenced for two to three months," Leazer explained. "They go back out into the street, you know, and then two to three months later they're right back in the facility."

In his State of the State Address, Governor Blunt said he wants to increase funding for mental health facilities.

But Partners in Crisis said the issue is about more than just money.

"Things just keep getting worse," said Laurence Aaron with MO Partners in Crisis. "We have family members that now, instead of being able to receive treatment or hospitalization are in prison."

The group hopes that increasing awareness about the problems will eventually make a difference.  There seems to be a growing concern for mental health care across the country. Many other states are also considering spending more money on mental health care.

In 2006, Blunt created the Mental Health Transformation Working Group. Members of the group include:

Mariann Burnetti-Atwell, 39 of Jefferson City, is chief of mental health at the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Dora A. Cole, 57 of Jefferson City, is interim director of community operations at the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Sandra K. Levels, 52 of Jefferson City, is program management director at the Division of Medical Services.

Gary R. Lyndaker, 60 of Gravois Mills, is director of information technology for the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Diane L. McFarland, 48 of St. Louis, is CPS division director at the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Anita K. Morrison, 53 of St. Clair, is Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support (BRIDGES) program director at the Mental Health Association of Greater St. Louis.

Paula Neese, 54 of Columbia, is director of Missouri's Children's Division at the Missouri Department of Social Services.

Paula F. Nickelson, 50 of Fulton, is prevention services coordinator at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

Sandra J. Rempe, 53 of Glasgow, is juvenile justice program manager at the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

Bernard A. Simons, 57 of Jefferson City, is division director for Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities at the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

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