Programs started in the last two years to improve mental health services in Missouri are making substantial progress, but much more work and money are needed according to state officials and mental health advocates.
Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration began looking to create or expand programs aimed to help those with mental illness, substance abuse or other behavioral health issues after the 2012 deaths of 20 students and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, said Mark Stringer, director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
For fiscal year 2014, the state added $10 million to the department’s budget for five programs:
- 31 Community Mental Health Liaisons, who work with law enforcement officers to refer troubled people to available mental health services;
- Coordinating care in emergency rooms and health centers;
- Three training initiatives aimed at law enforcement, the public and families with mentally ill members, who often need information on best practices to help the mentally ill.
The $10 million for the initiatives is part of the department’s total budget of $1.8 billion. Stringer said the programs have bipartisan support and he expects the funding to continue, but he argues expanding Medicaid health care coverage in Missouri would help more people who are underinsured or uninsured.