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Guest column | Judy Thompson

Mentally ill in Hernando County need all of our help

There is much pain in Hernando County surrounding issues that involve mental disease and drug abuse.

The recent loss of a treasured Hernando sheriff's deputy in a chase of an individual with addiction and mental illness issues. The loss of another citizen caused by speeding and fleeing after a traffic stop and arrest. And the loss of a beautiful little girl who took her mother's illegal drugs. All have been caused by people who have both addiction and mental health issues. We can tell that our county is in trouble with these issues coming far too frequently.

Florida does not have a good track record on these issues and our county is much worse. Seven people die every day in Florida due to prescription drug overdoses.

In Hernando County, in the first half of 2010, our average was twice the state average per capita. We lose 2,700 citizens statewide to suicide each year, for a per capita rate of 13.7 percent. In Hernando County, the suicide per capita is 19.9 percent.

Statewide, 2009 prescription drug abuse and diversion cost $15 billion. Our prisons are the largest mental health institutions in our state. We spend little on the end of care in the community and huge amounts on incarceration.

National figures show one in 10 children have behaviors of mental illness — from attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and obsessive compulsive disorder — to all of the other diagnoses that we are seeing in our children. This far outnumbers the 1 in 100 who have an autism spectrum diagnosis issue.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in children and young adults age 10 to 24. For younger children, age 5 to 10, suicide is the fifth-leading cause of death.

People trying to find help for mental and addiction issues find limited care or no care here in Hernando County. When you need to see someone, or are about to commit a crime against yourself or your family, a three-day stay is all the treatment you will receive. It is known as being Baker Acted. If you know the right answers to give, you will not receive any treatment at all. If you have no health insurance, follow-up care will not happen.

We do have a movement under way with the wonderful people involved in the Crescent Clinic who hope to have some mental health support as well as dental health coming on board before the end of the summer. It is a small drop in the bucket, but it is something to help the underserved people of this county.

The new Operation PAR Clinic that will go into operation in Spring Hill will serve people who find themselves addicted to prescription drugs. There is a new group forming to look at prescription drug issues, and a section of the Hernando Youth Initiative that will begin to focus on mental health issues of our youth. A major cause of school dropouts and failure to finish high school is undiagnosed and untreated mental issues. What an impact these groups can make in our future.

Are you willing to be a part of the solutions? National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Hernando has support groups for people who feel they might have mental health issues, classes for families of children and adults that may have a mental disease and support groups for family members. We can also steer you to one of the other groups working on these issues.

No one will come to solve these problems. There is not funding at any level to solve them it seems, but I don't want to see our quality of life continue to slide.

The loss of a great deputy was one too many. The loss of one sweet little girl with a sudden streak of curiosity was one too many, and the loss of one gentleman on a motorcycle observing the rules of the road was one too many.

I don't want you, me or any of our neighbors to be the next one. What can you do to help?

Judy Thompson of Spring Hill is president of NAMI Hernando.

Mentally ill in Hernando County need all of our help 07/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 6:37pm]
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