I have spent a great deal of time studying the issues that impact the community addiction and mental health systems and developing policy solutions to address them. I can think of no better time to bring this important topic to the surface than during the month of May, "Mental Health Awareness Month." It is an issue affecting the lives of so many, and we need to talk about it, we need to be there for each other, we need to do better.
Figuring out ways to increase access to quality mental healthcare services is important to me, not just because it is sound public policy, but because I have seen the effects of mental illness in the lives of people I know personally.
I have heard story after story from my constituents about their difficulty finding access to mental healthcare services, simply finding a doctor or a psychiatrist for themselves or their family members. These stories grieve my spirit. When help cannot be found, people continue to live in pain, which can lead to further destructive behavior to oneself or others, unintentionally. Whether they are afraid to seek treatment or desire it and are unable to find someone to provide treatment, we must make these resources more readily available to those suffering.
I recently sponsored a bill, that passed out of the Senate earlier this year, to reform the way we treat non-violent offenders who suffer from mental health issues. Too often, these individuals are sent to state hospitals when they would be better served by receiving treatment.
Currently, if you are charged with a non-violent misdemeanor and a judge orders you to undergo a competency evaluation, you will likely be sent to a state hospital. State hospitals are the only facilities we have to treat people with the most serious mental illnesses and beds are in short supply. Requiring competency evaluations and restoration to be completed inside a state hospital costs too much, doesn’t improve the mental health of person charged with a crime, and more importantly, it prevents those with severe mental illness from getting the help they need.
It is my hope that Senate Bill 58 will close this gap and ensure that all Ohioans obtain the care and treatment they deserve.
We still have a long way to go to ensure every person with a mental illness gets the treatment they need. If you or someone you know suffers from mental illness, there are people who can help. You do not have to live this way alone. Call your doctor, call your family and friends. Call toll-free for information and referral at Ohio's Mental Health and Addiction Services
1-877-275-6364 or as always, contact my office at (614) 466-8060 or Gavarone@OhioSenate.gov
Explore every avenue until you get the help you deserve. It may very well change your life.