A Place to Heal, LWV Forum Summary

A Place To Heal, League of Women Voters Forum Summary:

 In recognition of the Eastern Panhandle’s desperate need of a comprehensive system to address drug addiction and untreated mental illness, League members Renny Smith and Lyn Widmyer organized and co-hosted a forum on July 15, 2013 addressing the issue.  The panelists were Jim Gaynor, CEO of Grafton Integrated Health Network, Paul Macom, President and CEO of EastRidge Mental Health Systems, and Jim Auxer, vice president of primary care with Eastern Regional Jail.

These are the conclusions:

The Panhandle needs a continuum care program to address mental health care, and a residential facility must be a part of that program.

  • Solutions must be regional and require a larger area than just the 3 Panhandle counties.
  • Funding is the big issue.  We need to reallocate monies now going to jails and emergency rooms  to continuum care programs
  • .A mechanism is needed to harness all the energy for improved mental health to provide outreach and lobbying of our state legislators

Testimony emphasized the following points:

Untreated addiction and mental health problems damage individuals, families and the community

An inpatient facility capable of both substance abuse and mental health treatment is not only possible, but necessary.

Mental health and addiction treatment belong in a “continuum of care,” that begins with detox, then moves to a residential facility, and finally transitions the person into the community.

Substance abuse treatment programs might be able to achieve a 50 percent success rate if a commitment is made to providing comprehensive, integrated care.

Current treatment of substance abuse and mental illness often centers around emergency rooms, which is costly and ineffective

The Affordable Care Act took some steps to promote a more integrated approach to patient care by penalizing hospitals with high readmission rates

A lack of addiction and mental health services is causing jail overcrowding

Because of a lack of resources in the Panhandle, law enforcement dedicates substantial man-hours and resources to finding a safe place for mental hygiene cases in which a judge has deemed that an individual is in imminent danger of harming him or herself, or another person.