Dane County study to find gaps in mental health service coverage

Dane County study to find gaps in mental health service coverage

Officials are taking new steps to reduce the stigma of mental illness and make health services more available for every resident.

The area has a number of resources for those struggling with mental health issues, but not everyone can reasonably access them.

Dane County is planning a study budgeted at $100,000 to find gaps in services and ways to patch them.

“You can’t fix a problem until you fully understand it,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said.

He said the county puts tens of millions of dollars a year into mental health services, but not all residents are covered.

“Unfortunately, when we look countywide, it’s kind of a patchwork,” he said. “The county does some work, there are private insurers that do other work, there is medical assistance and there are places where there are gaps.”

Parisi said the county takes care of those without insurance, but they’re not the only ones who need help accessing treatment.

“Some challenges are often more in the private sector,” he said. “People who have HMOs or MA HMOs may have to wait very long periods of time to get services they need.”

Parisi wants to map the data out and see what areas need work.

“We need more information,” he said. “We want to be able to look at this map and identify where the services exist and where there might be gaps.”

“Maybe there are gaps we can fill,” said Lynn Brady, president and CEO of Journey Mental Health Center, which provides mental health and substance abuse services to all ages.

“People need these services,” Brady said.

She would like to see more community-based services, or those outside hospitals, institutions and jails, and case-management programs to help people with anything ranging from making doctor appointments to finding housing.

“We want to move forward,” she said. “This looking at the gaps in the community will help us on this forward march.”

Parisi said oftentimes, those with mental illness end up behind bars.

The study will also investigate whether the county could use a “crisis restoration center” where those with mental health issues could potentially go instead of jail

Parisi said the study is the first step in a potential fix.

“We want to interact with people who utilize these services (and) hear their stories and where they’re running into challenges,” he said. “A lot of people need to seek help during their lifetime. There are resources to help folks get better. We want to make sure we have the most robust system to help folks access the services they need as possible.”

The county is planning on starting the study in June, with results back by the end of summer.