When it comes to state dollars it certainly seems that way!
I attended a screening Monday night with some local mental health advocates of a film in the Fred Friendly series called “Minds on the Edge.” See info at www.mindsontheedge.org The film is a very comprehensive panel discussion on facing the issues of severe mental illness. It will be aired on PBS during Mental Illness Awareness week the first part of October. Afterward NAMI Southern Arizona hosted the discussion on how to help promote not only the film, but how to use the series as a catalyst to increase dialogue and education in our community surrounding this topic. Stay tuned for more information regarding the series!
We are passionate about creating awareness about mental illness, but we invariably end up talking about the inadequacies of the public mental health system and the overall frustration with the continuing decline in the meager funding. Then we factor in the state’s formula to give us (Tucson) less support per patient and it’s a wonder Pima County is able to provide any mental health services!
In Arnold vs Sarn,
a lawsuit filed alleging the state and Maricopa County did not fund a comprehensive mental health system, new services called Assertive Community Treatment Programs were instituted. Case managers in Maricopa County saw the number of patients they see decreased to around 30 per person while Pima County Case managers, who are paid just enough to get by, continue to have as many as 100 active patients in their files! Imagine what it’s like for that person when several of her patients are in crisis and need focused, immediate attention!
Sometimes I feel like the little baby bird in the nest outside my window, just waiting for my Mama bird to bring me some little morsel to help me grow and be on my own. The problem with our public mental health system, is that the little birdies in Pima are struggling to get just enough nourishment from the Big Birds in Phoenix to learn how to fly.
And, as we all know, it’s just getting worse. In fact, “state only” dollars for programs for the seriously mentally ill have decreased by more than 10 million since fiscal 2001. And, funding levels have never been adjusted for inflation. What is going to happen to these people?
Our legislators need to stop turning a blind eye to our most vulnerable population and increase funding for people living with brain disorders and they also need to start treating the citizens in Pima County as equal to those 100 miles up the freeway.
For more info on Arnold vs Sarn, see S.B. 1196