Mental health aid at risk

Did you know that one in four adults approximately 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health disorder in a given year? Five of the top 10 leading causes of disability worldwide are mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, alcohol use and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Area Mental Health Center provides community-based and outpatient mental health services, with help available via phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are both state and county funded, and coordinate the delivery of publicly funded community-based mental health services. As a Community Mental Health Center (CMHC), we are mandated by law to serve all Kansans regardless of their ability to pay. This makes us the "safety net" for Kansans with mental illness in our communities serving approximately 5,000 southwest Kansas residents each year, the majority of those having no insurance or not enough insurance.

Area Mental Health Center is an employer as well, with more than 185 staff members working in our communities. They contribute to our local economies and have a far-reaching economic impact.

All that being said, the CMHCs in Kansas are under fire and have entered into crisis mode because of budget and service cuts at the state level. Over the last three years, the CMHCs have seen a 65 percent reduction in state grant funding to serve the uninsured and underinsured. Last year and this year, the state is "extracting savings" from Medicaid Mental Health to the tune of $7.4 million in FY 2011 and $17 million in FY 2012. These cuts hurt vulnerable Kansans who need mental health treatment and have nowhere else to turn. Without treatment, they will end up in emergency rooms, jails or homeless.

It is important to know that CMHCs are the best spent dollar in mental health. Private psychiatric hospitals cost upwards of $800 a day; state psychiatric hospitals cost $428 a day; youth psychiatric residential treatment facilities cost $258 a day; jails or prisons cost $80 to $100 a day. The average CMHC Medicaid consumer in Kansas costs $22 a day to serve.

The point of this letter is to inform those in our communities about the importance of community mental health centers and the treatment they provide. We are the behavioral health safety net in our counties, yet because of the budget decisions made at the state level, these safety net services are in immediate jeopardy. However, there is something you can do to help. Contact your legislators in the Kansas House and Senate, and let them know how important your community mental health center services and treatment are in your counties. You can find their contact information at www.kslegislature.org. Your voice matters. Thank you for your continued support of mental health for all Kansans.

Sincerely,

RIC DALKE,

Garden City

Dalke is executive director of Area Mental Health Center.

Seek alternative sources of water

Water, water everywhere and not a drop for Kansas.

The drought this year was as bad as the '30s. Many climatologists are saying it won't get better, but maybe worse. Floods in the east and north will continue, and drought from Texas to the Dakotas will be the norm. The only thing keeping our soil from blowing away is the aquifer. I heard one prediction that some of the wells would start to go dry in 10 years. Wow, life without water in 10 to 25 years, talk about scary, no more crops to sell, severely reduced cattle herds, East and West Coasts having to rely on China and Russia for food, water wars starting again in the plains, etc., etc., etc.

But what if there were ways to use our ingenuity to get the better of Mother Nature. How much should we be willing to spend to refill the aquifer? Remember what I said in the beginning of this note? Water, water everywhere and not a drop for Kansas. Well there's plenty of water, we just have to figure out how to get it here. First we need a few very large sources of water fairly close by. There are two. The Gulf of Mexico and Lake Superior. The Gulf would require some desalinization plants and a large pipeline that could serve Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Kansas with surface irrigation water, reducing demand on the aquifer. But the real gem, so to speak, would be a pipeline from Duluth, Minn., to Nebraska and Kansas where purification plants could pipe Lake Superior water directly to the aquifer. Most all of the excess water in the Great Lakes goes over the Niagara Falls; we only need 10 percent to sustain the future of farming in America. So once again I ask, how much should we be willing to spend to ensure our future has water. If we start now, some of those wells will never run dry.

ED FISCHER,

Garden City