Northland News

Columbus Metropolitan Club forum

Mental-health advocates hopeful, realistic about services

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Early detection of mental illness and proper treatment could mean the difference between crisis and effective management of the disease, a panel of experts said last week.

Karen Twinem, spokeswoman for National Church Residences, told an audience June 19 at the Columbus Metropolitan Club that families often experience an unfortunate slog through the system.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is difficult, followed by the challenge of finding help.

Those fortunate in locating a case manager have the additional burden of keeping a loved one on medication.

"It takes hope, but it takes a lot longer than you think it will," said Twinem, whose two adult children have mental disorders.

Moderating the discussion, Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long said 57.7 million Americans -- or one in four -- have some sort of disorder, from mild to severe.

"Young or poor, rich or old -- no one is immune," she said.

Those who have more-serious conditions, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, cost the country $200 billion in lost earnings.

Meanwhile, they are unfairly stigmatized, often as violent, Long said.

"People still suffer, sadly, in silence," she said.

Adding to the problem is the thinning ranks of physicians, particularly in the field of psychiatry, Twinem said. Nearly 55 percent of psychiatrists are age 55 and older, she said.

"The shortage is real," she said.

Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, said she was a strong advocate of Gov. John Kasich's desire to expand state Medicaid, a hotly contested proviso in the proposed state budget.

Officials estimate the increase would provide insurance coverage to additional 50,000 Ohioans who need mental-health services.

Yet, additional funds aren't always the answer, so Plouck stressed the benefit of volunteering for support groups and call-in centers.

"There's something everyone can do that doesn't involve money," she said.

Paul Coleman, president and CEO of Maryhaven, which provides behavioral health care with a specialization in addiction recovery, said the quality of mental-health care often depends on geography.

In Franklin County, the local Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, also known as ADAMH, provides $70 million in addiction recovery and mental health for both children and adults, Coleman said.

Of that $70 million, 75 percent comes from a property-tax levy that Franklin County residents consistently have approved over the last two decades, Coleman said.

He said mental illness "can't be cured, but can be managed very effectively through treatment."

However, until people are ready to commit to such a regimen, "there is nothing you can do," he said.

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