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Panel deliberates access to mental health care

Mental health panel participants included Judge John Bradbury.

Photo by Lorie Palmer
Mental health panel participants included Judge John Bradbury.


Mental health panel participants were (L-R) Dean Allen, Jennifer Griffis, Dr. Dan Schmidt, Jessica Chilcott and Judge John Bradbury.

— About 100 people gathered at the Grangeville Senior Center May 12 to ask questions of a five person-panel on topics of mental health issues.

The event was part of National Mental Health Month events and sponsored by the Idaho County Democratic Party. Terri Tackett of Grangeville, a counselor at North Idaho Correctional Institution, moderated the event.

“Mental health issues are often very complicated,” stated panel member Senator Dan Schmidt, M.D., Moscow. “Building networks in this state has been a challenge. Mental health providers do not see Idaho as an attractive state for a thriving practice. Psychiatric support is very slim. Family doctors do their best. Whose obligation is it to provide these services to our residents? What serves Boise does not necessarily serve Grangeville.”

Panelist Judge John Bradbury, Lewiston, said he has seen mental health issues criminalized throughout the years.

“So many times I have seen people who should not be facing jail time, they should be in a hospital,” he said. “I have seen mental health and drug courts work at a fraction of the cost of incarceration.”

Parent advocate and panelist Jennifer Griffis, Grangeville, stated she understands the family frustrations on many levels as she is the parent of seven children, four who have some level of emotional or developmental diagnosis on the mental health scale.

Community resources:

*Each school has a counselor on-site

*Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, 983-1100

*Ni Mi Poo Health, Kamiah Clinic, 935-0733

*Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255

*Crisis Text Line, free 24/7: text to 741-741

*Also contact Health and Welfare and private counseling service

“Mental health issues in children can often look like spoiled, disrespectful children to those on the outside,” she said. “I am the family face of this issue. I am a strong believer in preventative support for child mental health issues.”

“I want to offer hope for those in need of services,” said panelist and counselor Dean Allen of Cottonwood. “Such a stigma was attached to mental health and addiction issues 30 years ago – I do believe we are getting a little bit better. We need to remember addiction is a medical problem, not a moral problem.”

He added 80 percent of those with substance abuse issues are dual diagnosed with mental health issues.

Panelist Jessica Chilcott, LMSW, of Sandpoint, said she tries to advocate not only for families but also for the agencies that support them. Chilcott is a Democratic candidate for District 7A House.

“These are small businesses within our communities,” she said.

Questions from the audience for the panel varied from those on insurance and private businesses taking care of their employees to the state’s obligation to provide mental health care and supporting families in crisis.

The entire panel was supportive and complimentary of the local efforts of health care providers and agencies such as the Department of Health and Welfare and law enforcement, stating they know they work to the best of their limited resources.

“Idaho has some of the highest incarceration rates and yet some of the lowest crime rates – what does this say?” Schmidt asked. “Our country spends more than twice as much than the next highest country on health care. There is a ton of waste we need to address and learn to be efficient with our resources.”

Bradbury said to a large extent the symptoms are being dealt with rather than the issues of those with mental health issues.

“We have to find a way of early intervention that starts with parents so it doesn’t syphon down through generations – to deal with poverty and parenting skills and get to the sources,” he said.

The panel agreed community grass-roots efforts are important because, as Schmidt put it – “Grangeville is not just rural to people in Boise and Coeur d’Alene – it’s the frontier. You are going to need community support.”

Ideas for local support include becoming a respite caregiver for families who have children with mental health diagnosis, challenging legislation and being an advocate for those without a voice, supporting school counselors and normalizing mental health issues to reduce the stigma attached to mental health diseases. In addition, requesting (and supporting) more and sustainable telepsychiatry programs through local clinics was suggested as a way to help people from having to travel so far out of their communities for mental health appointments.


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