Governor Highlights $50 Million Investment in Behavioral Health

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little and other state officials on Tuesday highlighted one of the state’s largest investments in behavioral health care.

The Republican governor in a ceremonial event that included justices and lawmakers from the Idaho Supreme Court marked the $50 million approved by the Legislature in a series of appropriations bills this year that Little has already signed into law.

“Our goal is to intervene early enough that these problems are not so big,” Little said. “That we can recognize behavioral health issues early on and address them early, and that will lower the cost of everything. But most importantly, it will improve our quality of life here in Idaho.”

The money goes to areas recommended by the Idaho Behavioral Health Council, made up of members from all three branches of state government. The council has sought to improve access to mental health resources and improve outcomes.

“Our vision is that adults, children and their families living with mental illness and addiction receive the behavioral health care services they need when they need them,” said Council Member, Republican Rep. Laurie Lickley.

The $50 million is spread across a handful of appropriations bills and passed by wide margins, but far-right lawmakers tend to vote against it. The money includes a mix of federal coronavirus relief funds and general funds.

Little called it “a very successful passage of significant bills that will improve the delivery of much-needed behavioral health services across the state.”

The ceremonial event was held in Boise at an Idaho Suicide and Crisis Hotline facility that will use $4.4 million to expand the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in Idaho.

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Idaho, and the state’s 23.2 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2020 made it the fifth worst in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .

Another $6 million will be used to explore a new model, called the Certified Behavioral Health Community Clinic, to improve access and quality of behavioral health services in the state. Recovery centers will get an additional $900,000 to help people recovering from mental health or substance abuse issues.

Idaho Supreme Court Justice John Stegner, who participated in the event, said a major problem facing the state is that people with mental health issues become trapped in the state’s criminal justice system, sometimes as a result from trying to self-medicate and adding a substance abuse problem.

“We are trying to differentiate between those who are criminally inclined and those who are mentally ill,” he said. “One of the problems with putting the mentally ill in the court system and in jail is that they have worse outcomes than those without mental illness. Essentially, we are treating the problem the wrong way. That’s one of the things I’m optimistic about: by trying to help people with mental illness now, before they interact with the criminal justice system, they’ll be treated in a way that’s much more likely to have a positive outcome. than if they were arrested and placed in the criminal justice system.”

Three seed grants totaling $15 million in one-time money will be awarded to three Idaho residential treatment centers for transition to psychiatric residential care centers and qualified residential treatment programs.

Another $2.5 million will be used in substance use disorder block grants for prevention work through the Office of Drug Policy, an office of the governor that directs substance use and abuse prevention policies and efforts. of the state.

An additional $3 million will be used for community mental health block grants for a variety of items including early severe mental illness programs, crisis training, crisis beds for patients diagnosed with severe mental illness and developmental disabilities, and training in adverse events in childhood.

The money also includes $2.5 million for pre-prosecution grants and $500,000 for a trial program involving trauma-addressing interventions.

The state is significantly bolstering its efforts to help juveniles with $6.5 million to establish secure reception centers for youth who have been arrested or found to be delinquents. The centers could help minors avoid state juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Another $4.4 million was approved to establish youth crisis centers across the state.

“We’ve had a very successful model in the state of establishing adult crisis centers across the state,” said Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “But we still don’t have a model for teen and youth crisis centers.”

Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections Director Monty Prow said the nearly $11 million in the two initiatives will help address prevention and intervention for youth, as well as bolster treatment for those who need it.

“Society is so complicated,” Little said. “These kids have so many challenges that they didn’t even have 10 or 15 years ago. And the pandemic just accelerated a lot of these underlying issues that were there.”

Finally, the state controller’s office will receive $2.5 million to help ensure statewide behavioral health data is securely reported and quantified at the state level.

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