As Governor of Arkansas, I do all I can to improve the quality of life of those in our state. One important gauge of success is our health and access to care and treatment. We’re pretty good at recognizing and treating physical concerns, but we often miss the signs of mental illness, even in those closest to us.
Nearly a quarter of all Americans contend with mental illness. In Arkansas in 2010, 12.5 percent of the population reported frequent mental distress compared to 10.7 nationally, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rate in Arkansas was higher for women (14 percent) than men (11 percent), according to a report in the UAMS Journal, Spring 2014. Arkansans ages 25 to 34 reported the highest rate at 14.7 percent compared to 6.2 percent of those 75 and above.
In extreme cases, mental illness can manifest itself in acts that are dangerous to the person or to others. We are learning, however, that incarceration is not the best solution in these cases and can often exacerbate the problem.
Last spring, I signed a bill into law to establish four Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Units (CSUs) throughout the state in an effort to meet this need. I have committed $6 million to the project.
A CSU is a short-term clinical facility that provides an alternative to jail. A law-enforcement officer who believes that a mental illness may be causing a person’s actions can take the individual to a CSU.
At the unit, trained professions assess individuals and provide initial treatment to stabilize the person.
Jails and emergency rooms aren’t equipped to handle individuals with these conditions. Appropriate care will result in better outcomes for these individuals, and, in addition, it will decrease the strain and cost on our county jails.
Mental health and well-being is critical to our communities, our workplaces, our families and our state. I am pleased to be working alongside many others who are taking steps towards better solutions for those who struggle with mental illness.
The Mental Health Guide enclosed is an excelled resource for information about state agencies and private organizations that are committed to helping Arkansans overcome their struggles with mental illness.
I trust you will find this guide helpful as we work to ensure the overall well-being of the people of our state.