CDC study: Poor families more likely to have mental illnesses

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COLUMBIA - A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released on Thursday reveals those with low-income are more likely to have mental illnesses.

Kelly Wallis, director of Boone County Community Services, said low-income families in mid-Missouri face added challenges when it comes to getting treatment and preventing mental illness. 

Wallis said aside from the lack of an ability to pay for mental health care, her agency has determined access issues, provider shortages, transportation issues and stigmas about mental health prevention are keeping some low-income families from getting care.

Additionally, Wallis said the lack of preventative mental health care for low-income families often means mental health issues often only end up being treated when symptoms become severe.

"The lack of preventative services, or the ability to access those services, certainly provides a barrier," Wallis said. "There will only be intervention once the situation gets to that crisis point where there's law enforcement intervention or juvenile office intervention."

Wallis said low-income families, especially those who live in rural areas, often have difficulty finding transportation to needed resources.

"Here in Columbia, it's a little easier to get around, and we have a lot of resources in Columbia," Wallis said. "Even driving 10 or 15 miles from some of the rural areas, it makes it really difficult if they lack a car or lack the gas money to transport on a regular basis to Columbia."

Wallis said low-income people able to find the appropriate mental health care services may have scheduling barriers to receiving care, like working multiple jobs or working night shifts. She also said children in low-income families have to face additional stress due to poverty, which can take a mental toll on them. 

"They're dealing with issues of whether they're going to have food to eat, whether they're going to have a clean bed to sleep in, whether their parents will be home and able to interact with them," Wallis said.

Wallis said Boone County Community Services has developed programs to help meet the needs of low-income families needing health care, including outreach in Boone County schools, funding programs that bring home-based services to families and developing an access center for low-income families to obtain services.