PORTSMOUTH- The Scioto County Commissioners have declared the month of May to be Mental Health Awareness Month.
About 20 percent of all adults and adolescents live with mental illness, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in teens. A third of all counties in the United States, including Scioto County, area located in an area known to have a shortage of mental health professionals, according to Commissioner Cathy Coleman.
“That is devastating to hear, some of those figures,” Coleman said. “It is an honor to proclaim this month Mental Health Awareness Month.”
Mental health is a topic on which Commissioner Bryan Davis said legislators can reach across the aisle. Davis spent last week in Washington, D.C., as part of a nationwide group with National Association of Counties to lobby the Administration and Capitol Hill on issues affecting local people.
One of those issues is mental health.
“They did respond to several of our concerns. One thing I’ve noticed is that mental health is more of a bipartisan issue that both parties can get behind and work on,” Davis said. “We were flooding Capitol Hill is what I understand, and it was very successful.”
Mental illness is a real issue and affects local constituents and governments in ways other than the obvious.
“One of the issues we have right now is due process and it affects our jail. It is very expensive for our county,” Davis said. “When individuals, right now, are incarcerated, their Medicaid is immediately cut off.”
That means it can take days to get them back on the program and just as long, or longer, to get the individuals back on the medication they may have already been taking for mental health conditions. It becomes a safety issue for the individual as well as the staff working with them at the jail.
“To cut them off what they were already on and to say you’re no longer eligible for those benefits. It is becoming commonly accepted that is wrong,” Davis said.
If individuals are innocent until proven guilty, taking away medication would essentially violate their rights and set up a potentially dangerous situation.
“When people come off their medication,” Davis said, “sometimes they become agitated, angry.”
It creates an unsafe situation for everyone involved where there possibly wasn’t one before.