OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Thursday night, the public was asked to participate in a virtual mental health forum to explain to Douglas County commissioners where the mental health systems are failing.
"Currently because our community offers nothing, my child is in Utah receiving treatment at the age of 11, that's inappropriate. Nebraska needs to offer something, and when he is done with that, there is no step-down program for him to go to so he would come from a facility with high needs back home, which we all know is a recipe for disaster," said Nichole Rogert.
The Douglas County Commissioners will be putting $8 million into improving mental health services and more money is expected to come from the Federal government.
"Autism and a mental health disability make it where a lot of us are not able to get treatment if we go to a mental health hospital because those facilities are not prepared to handle such an individual," said Janine Brooks.
Many expressed the need for a short-term healing center.
"In our experience, going to the hospital, Immanuel was not the best place of healing for our son. If there is a way we can change that whole process of not wanting to go to a hospital to get help, and then making it a very painful process, an unhealing process for them," said Dulce Sherman.
Others are asking for some kind of community outreach program to help with crisis intervention instead of law enforcement. Many in the forum explained that sometimes just the presence of a weapon can escalate the situation, and transportation by police doesn't always help with the stigma.
"Usually when they come out, they don't understand the situation, and they are taught to restrain. For an autistic individual, to be restrained is one of the worst situations they can be in, especially if they are in a meltdown or they are stemming," said Brooks.
Some are asking for someone to follow up with patients, and see if they are taking the steps they need to improve.
"We discharge an alarming number of people back to homeless shelters, who remain seriously and persistently mentally ill. There is a need for continuity of care, a secure residential treatment facility in town, and housing for these folks. We discharge them to the shelters, they have no way of going back to their appointments. What happens is they end up getting re-hospitalized, it's terrible for the patients, and expensive for the taxpayer," said Louise Jeffry.
One mental health professional said that right now, therapists are overwhelmed with the number of patients and there aren't enough therapists of color, who are bilingual, or who can help the LGBTQ community.
"When you have a child who needs help, the psychiatrists' wait lists are incredibly long, and things can go very wrong if you can't get an appointment," said Rogert.
Douglas County is hoping to offer help for everyone.
"As our population ages, we are also seeing an increase in mental health issues with that population," said Mary Ann Borgeson Douglas County Commissioner.
So many people were just happy the county is taking the time to have this conversation and to allow so many voices to be heard.
To call and voice your opinions: (402) 444-7025
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