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Focus put on mental health

Local residents had their final chance to comment on Nevada County’s $1 million mental health plan Friday, and the crowded conference room at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City “put a face on the issue,” said Joan Buffington, the plan’s facilitator.

People took turns speaking about their experiences with mental illness, as well as their concerns with the county’s plan. The meeting capped off a year of discussion regarding the use of $1 million that will now be allocated to Nevada County’s mental health services annually through Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act passed by state voters in 2004 that taxes incomes exceeding $1 million.

Friday’s meeting showed there was a need to be more specific in the plan regarding the housing assistance it offers, Department of Behavioral Health Director Robert Erickson said. Difficulties providing mentally ill patients with housing are especially severe locally because of other issues regarding affordable housing, he said.



A peer counselor at the Spirit Center, Charlotte Allen, was fielding phone calls from those listening to the meeting’s broadcast on KVMR, then sharing callers’ concerns with the group.

In listening to callers and the discussion, Allen said she was “struck by how inter-related we are with all the associated problems” arising from mental illness, emphasizing the significance of the housing issue.




The county’s new plan also includes an intensive program for children with mental health problems.

“Kids are being self-medicated with drugs and alcohol because of the lack of services they (currently) have,” Allen said.

Other members of the public spoke about the need for additional mental health services funding. Bill Toensing, husband of Mental Health Services Board Chair Joan Rogers-Toensing, said “we need an adequate safety net.”

A retired clinical worker, Dave Moyer, offered a “contrarian opinion,” saying he thought the new plan should have included provisions for more innovative medications.

Funds for the plan are expected to arrive in July.

Now that the public comment period has passed, the proposed plan – which can be found on the county’s Web site at http://new.mynevadacounty.com/bh – is expected be tweaked slightly, then go before the Board of Supervisors in mid-April and then on state officials.

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To reach the staff writer Josh Singer, e-mail joshs@theunion .com or cal 477-4234.


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