Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Month designation is a way to increase awareness of a particular issue. This month, it is mental health. The numbers are staggering. Mental illness will strike one of five adults and children in a given year regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion or economic status. If we just stop and think about it, we all personally know one or more people who are affected by this illness.
At a recent legislative conference, a presenter on mental illness said there are 211,000 people with serious mental health issues in the state of Minnesota. In the area of law enforcement and justice, over one half of the population have serious mental health problems. Senior citizens have a higher incidence than the rest of the population. Calls to suicide prevention hot lines have increased by 35%. These people are all thing of seriously injuring themselves. This is a REAL epidemic where as the H1N1 virus is “the flu”.
The World Health Association has declared mental illness our country’s number two disability. More police are dying from suicide than from the perpetrators. More veterans have died of “suicide” or an “accident” than in the conflicts we are currently engaged in-in Iraq and Afghanistan. These people actually “died in the war but waited until later to commit the act.”
The sad part of this is that many of the 30,000 Minnesotans impacted by Governor Pawlenty’s vetoe of the GAMC program are people who are seriously and persistently mentally ill. Many will not be able to afford treatment and/or medications. They will receive treatment – but not the positive kind. They will end up in jails and prisons which is a much more expensive way to deal with the illness. Treatment will be harsh and negative rather than positive with good outcomes for the person who is ill. However the expense will be borne by the local county government (property tax) rather than the state general revenue fund. And Governor Pawlenty can add another line to his “no taxes” pledge and win admiration from party loyalists. How can he do this? He can do it because the people he is hurting have no voices to speak for them. This is a shame and folly for our state. end


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