Tom Baughman: Mohave County providers encourage residents to seek mental health help
Not a day goes by in Mohave County that a cry for help isn’t made to a response organization, be it a police or fire department, hospital, mental health clinic or crisis network.
A supermarket employee dials 911 because a woman has been caught stealing. Officers and mental health counselors arrive and learn the woman isn’t hungry – she has no place to stay the night and figures jail is her best option.
Another caller to police reports a bewildered man on the street, in the dangerous heat of midsummer, with his belongings stashed in a grocery cart. Developmentally delayed and with the maturity of a young teenager, he has been evicted from a hotel where he was staying with his mother. She has died there, and he has nowhere else to go.
Victims of circumstance, each of these individuals received assistance because agencies in the area increasingly are building bridges and opening doors to tackle what has been deemed its most critical health issue.
Mental health is the top public health priority in Mohave County, followed by substance abuse.
The report attributed emerging indicators, including suicide deaths and access to mental health providers, in its rankings.
The plan, which also sought community input, revealed these startling facts:
• The suicide rate in Mohave County is 29.5 per 100,000 residents, greater than the Arizona state rate of 18.
• Nearly 16% of county residents do not have access to mental health professionals.
• Nearly 10% believe the quality of mental health services is insufficient.
• 7% do not feel comfortable using mental health facilities.
The plan offers these goals:
Improve mental health support through prevention and access to meet the needs of the Kingman region by 2020: 1) reducing mental health stigma among residents by 10% and 2) decreasing the number of suicide-related deaths to 25 per 100,000 residents.
Reduce substance abuse to improve the quality of life in the region by 2020 by decreasing substance abuse among youth by 15% and reducing opioid-related overdose deaths by 15%.
Nationwide, veterans are especially in crisis. According to Arizona Violent Death Reporting System, however, Arizona had the sixth-highest veteran suicide rate in the nation in 2016, due partly to the state’s aging veteran population and our wide-open rural spaces that make access to behavioral services difficult. The rate in Arizona was 44.1 per 100,000, compared to a national rate of 30.1.
Worse, in Mohave County, the rate had soared to a rate of 90.9 per 100,000 veterans.
The Crisis Response Network offers support, via the Northern Arizona Crisis Line 1-877-756-4090), from trained crisis intervention specialists over the phone 24/7/365 at no cost. When the crisis specialists from Crisis Response Network identify a need for in-person assistance, they contact and dispatch our Terros Health mobile crisis team members. Rural areas suffer a lack of access to mental health care, so the plan calls for exploring community treatment options. This includes identifying gaps in service, along with potential funding sources to boost treatment access points for everyone. In doing so, our community of mental health providers strongly encourage residents to contact any of us – from first responders, mobile crisis services or any of our providers to get help. After all, there is no wrong door to gaining access to quality mental health services.
Tom Baughman is crisis clinical manager for Terros Health, which provides mobile crisis services to residents of Mohave County.