Editorials

Make it a priority to restore vital help for the mentally ill in Kansas City area

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Kansas City has helped the Kansas City Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Teams help people get assistance they need.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Kansas City has helped the Kansas City Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Teams help people get assistance they need. along@kcstar.com

The services that the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Kansas City has provided for people and families for 36 years are too vital for it to remain closed for long.

Funding and staff problems recently forced the alliance to cease operations. Close to 30 percent of its revenue was from a portion of the Jackson County Community Mental Health Fund tax levy. Concerns over a need for the alliance to be reorganized caused it to be dropped from funding.

Fortunately, the support groups and classes that the alliance supplies will continue because volunteers run them. It’s also encouraging that mental health training for police officers will be maintained.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a grassroots mental health organization committed to building better lives for the millions of people affected by mental illness.

The alliance and its chapters educate people about mental illness. They advocate for those affected, helping to shape national, state and local policies as well as equitable treatment and health care parity for individuals.

All of this is no small matter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that about 25 percent of all U.S. adults have a mental illness, and nearly 50 percent will develop at least one mental illness in their lifetime.

With cuts in state and federal funding and the shrinking number of mental health hospital treatment beds, this is no time for the area to be without an advocate for individuals and families with a mental illness.

Keep in mind that jails and prisons are filled with people enduring mental illness.

Cindi Keele, the national alliance’s statewide director in Jefferson City, told The Kansas City Star that this metropolitan area’s chapter’s shutdown is a “transition, not a retreat.”

Let’s hope so. The stigma of negative attitudes, prejudices and discrimination that people face with a diagnosed mental illness are frightful.

Mental illness is a brain disorder. In some cases it can be treated with medication. But getting the right prescription isn’t a sure thing, and even when it is that can change.

Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Kansas City help individuals and families navigate the system. By bringing committed people together it helps build hope and courage for those affected to go on when there otherwise would be neither.

When the alliance is reactivated, those involved need to institute a greater sense of fiduciary accountability and responsibility.

There must also be a succession plan so that neither neither age nor illness of key persons will jeopardize the organization.

The service it provides for the Kansas City area is too vital to do without.

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