I know what untreated mental health issues can do to families–I’ve been directly affected by it. It is a silent epidemic in our country, and our city is not immune. Providing access to good healthcare and mental health services is critical if we truly want to make a difference. It’s also about making sure people get what they need regardless of financial ability or insurance.
Mental health is often seen as a state or county “job,” but that’s just not enough–we need to work on this at every level. That’s why we used some of our recovery funding to provide free mental health services online during the pandemic. In the end, this service helped many people, including those who had not previously sought services for mental health–in fact, more than half of the folks who took advantage of those online/tele-counseling services had never before talked to a professional mental health provider.
It has become “acceptable” in our country to use our jails and emergency rooms as mental health hospitals. To me, this is wholly unacceptable, and that is why I am working hard to bring a 24/7 mental health and treatment center to our region to fill that huge gap. If we can provide treatment and access to healthcare, we can start to be proactive in our approach to build a healthier community and–as a side benefit, but a huge one–to save taxpayers millions by addressing the problem early on.
Cities like ours across the country face the mental health crisis on a daily basis. Staff at the city–primarily first responders–are the people who show up when mental health crises spiral out of control. That’s why the United States Conference of Mayors created a new mental health task force to advocate on this issue at the federal level. As an outspoken and active mayor on this issue, I am proud to have been selected to serve in a leadership role on the task force.
I will continue to do anything and everything I can to support our community’s mental health. This includes not only mental health services, but also quality of life issues such as access to parks, clean neighborhoods, and opportunities for us to enjoy our beautiful region.