Debra Johnson, Grand Forks, letter: Budget rightly boosts mental health fundingAs a mental health advocate and provider of housing and community-based services for adults with serious mental illness, I salute Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s recommendations to boost mental health funding.
By: Debra Johnson,
GRAND FORKS — As a mental health advocate and provider of housing and community-based services for adults with serious mental illness, I salute Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s recommendations to boost mental health funding.
It is time for society to recognize that mental illness is a debilitating disease that affects one out of five families. Over the past 30 years, there has been a concerted effort to move people from institutional settings to where they belong: in the community of their choice, close to family and friends.
Prairie Harvest Mental Health, in partnership with Northeast Human Service Center — our regional state provider of services — has worked hard to create permanent supportive housing so that people with mental illness can achieve mental health wellness and recovery.
We work hard to support their efforts by developing programs and services that strengthen participants’ abilities to overcome the obstacles to living successfully in the community. In a person-centered and recovery–focused environment, people learn skills in budgeting, household management, personal development and getting and keeping a job.
Grand Forks, including the mayor, City Council and Urban Development office, all have taken an active role in developing 33 units of permanent supportive housing with another nine units to be built in the spring.
If we do not prioritize mental health in North Dakota, we will experience the latest trend that is sweeping the nation: using jails and prisons to take care of people with mental illness.
The Herald’s Dec. 12, story, “Guilty of mental illness” (Page D1), had some startling information that deserves repeating: “Experts say U.S. prisons and jails have become the country’s largest mental health institutions, its new asylums.”
“Nationally, 16 percent to 20 percent of prisoners are mentally ill.”
“We have too many untreated mentally ill people who are getting criminalized because of the absence of resources.”
North Dakota has the chance to do what’s right. It is right to dedicate resources so that people with mental illness can get the treatment they deserve.
Governor, you are so right. On behalf of adults with serious mental illness, their families and friends – thank you.
Johnson is executive director of Prairie Harvest Mental Health.