The Class of 2013’s recent exploration of Health and Human Services included a presentation by Jodie Lubarsky from Seacoast Mental Health Center and Linda Paquette from New Futures.

We learned in detail about the critical mental health issues facing the region, about the impact of mental health and substance abuse issues, and the unfortunate reality that prevention and treatment programs are sparse.

Jodie shared with the class that mental health beds and resources for mental health services are decreasing, and community health centers are closing.

Even the Governor, in her address on the budget, addresses this important topic:

“Our balanced budget proposal also recognizes the need to address our strained mental health system, one of our most pressing public health challenges. Our plan resumes efforts to repair our mental health system, helping us move forward with implementing the state’s 10-year mental health plan by phasing in changes with a systematic approach that will strengthen all aspects of mental health care in our state and move us toward more community-based care.

Supporting the health and well-being of all of our citizens also means ensuring that they can work, live, and raise their families in the safest possible communities, and this budget takes steps to strengthen our public safety infrastructure, beginning to restore funding for the Children in Need of Services Program, putting 15 more state troopers on the road and allowing us to continue operating three drug task force teams.”

The Concord Monitor writer Annemarie Timmins, in her series on mental health, says the biggest barriers to impacting the mental health system are awareness and money.

Add to that the economic recession, competing legislative priorities in the state, and the stigma with mental illness, and the system remains broken.

What do you think of the mental health system?  Whose responsibility is it to provide those services?  And what, if anything, can and should we, as leaders, do to improve mental health services in our region?

Jennifer Wheeler

Executive Director, Leadership Seacoast