Support the SPIRIT of mental health help |

Support the SPIRIT of mental health help

Two area groups have undertaken the honorable and yet daunting task of creating appropriate safe havens for mental illness patients.

Just the specter of mental illness could close many doors for Nevada County’s Forensic Task Force on Mental Illness and SPIRIT, a group of mental health counselors. But both should be bolstered by community funds and efforts to tackle this most difficult of problems.

The task force was formed by the county supervisors to keep mental health patients out of jail and improve mental health care for the incarcerated.

Initially, the lofty idea of an emergency psychiatric hospital was pondered, but found to be too ambitious, according to Robert Erickson, the county’s Behavioral Health Department director. Instead, the task force is looking at a crisis-stabilization unit, a small, two-bed facility designed to calm patients down and keep them out of a hospital.

In a trip to Mendocino County, the task force toured a crisis unit that staff members said dramatically cut back on expensive inpatient treatment and transportation to get that treatment in other counties.

SPIRIT is looking at a more day-to-day solution, a drop-in center for mental health patients, where they could talk about their problems with peer counselors who are also afflicted or with other patients.

By providing that sense of not being alone, SPIRIT’s idea could help many here. It could also provide a stop gap for patients prone to waywardness and hospitalization, which is often paid for by taxpayers in the end.

Beyond money and volunteers, both groups need the backing of the community with the requisite understanding that mental illness can happen to anyone in any family and is not a sign of bad character.

There are good people and families out there in Nevada County who need any help they can get with mental health issues. Let’s hope the state, area benefactors and those who know how to write grants come to their aid.

As county growth continues, the task of handling mental illness patients will only get harder. It’s best to start now with an eye to the future.

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