From funding issues to gaps in services for veterans and non-English speakers, dozens of individuals offered ideas this week on how Lucas County’s mental health and addiction safety net can improve.
Board members and staff from the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board heard comments Tuesday from social service organizations, mental health consumers, and others at the meeting, which aimed to identify system gaps in service and care, as well as recommendations for improvements.
A major theme of several speakers was the need for uninterrupted services for people with mental illness who have just been released from prison.
There should be “a more seamless system,” said Jim Dennis, executive director of the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker, such as quicker referrals that enable people to remain on needed psychiatric medications when they leave incarceration.
Joe Tafelski, executive director of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc., also said he believed services for those who have just left prison “would be a wise investment” in order to cut down on recidivism.
David Shade, a quality control director at Volunteers of America, which operates a halfway house in North Toledo, said he has witnessed the mental health needs of those returning prisoners first-hand with his clients, describing a recent situation where a man waited nearly two months to receive medication he needed.
Others speaking to the board had additional suggestions for gaps in care that could be filled.
“We see a significant gap in service” for veterans not eligible for VA care because of a dishonorable discharge or because of not having been in the military long enough, said Shawn Dowling, chief of homeless services at the Veterans Administration in Toledo and Ann Arbor.
Claudia Annoni, a coordinator with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Toledo, said there is little information available for those who primarily speak Spanish.
The board funds 17 local agencies that provide services to about 24,000 people. Six more forums are planned. The next meeting, for mental health services consumers and their family members, is 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Kent Branch Library, 3101 Collingwood Blvd.