Mental health matters occupied a big portion of Tuesday’s Riley County law board meeting, with the first hour of the meeting primarily involving discussion of a possible crisis intervention team program, though no definitive action was taken.
Pawnee Mental Health Executive Director Robbin Cole had been invited to make a presentation, and she did just that, sharing with law board members how much things have changed in terms of treatment of those with mental health issues.
“In 1955, we had 500,000 psychiatric beds in the United States,” Cole said. “Today, we have 40,000. We have 550,000 people in prisons and jails with mental illness. So we have just moved people with mental illness from mental hospitals to prisons and jails.”
Law Board chair Karen McCulloh suggested a task force on the matter, and many seemed to agree something needs to be done. However, Riley County Police Director Brad Schoen warned the group of financial implications.
“I think you hear from both her and I that money will be a big part of this,” Schoen said. “In that respect, you, as law board members, are kind of the tail wagging the dog here. Because we all know where the law board gets it’s money from is the city and the county on that 80-20 funding split ratio.”
Meanwhile, Law Board Member Barry Wilkerson, who also serves as Riley County attorney, said while there are measurable costs, there are also some costs which are immeasurable. Wilkerson went on to say it is incumbent upon the local community to fix what the state has given us.
The group agreed to bring the matter up at the next joint city/counties meeting.