The Fort Collins Weekly published this piece on the difficulty of being poor and mentally ill in Colorado. The intersection between substance abuse and mental illness may not be obvious to some but we are using our jails as warehouses for those who can't get treatment. Larimer County doesn't have beds for treatment available at all, with folks having to go to Greeley to get help. Read the whole article if you have time
The mental health care system of today is often considered a rat maze by those wandering through its overloaded, underfunded and fragmented labyrinth.
When a person has a mental illness, getting the needed services is often a hit or miss task.
Of course there are private psychiatrists for those who can afford then or for those who have insurance that covers the service. But for the many who do not have health insurance or whose insurance does not pay for mental health care and who cannot afford to pay for the help out of pocket, treating a mental illness becomes much more difficult. Public funding is limited and public services for the mentally ill are not enough to cover the needs of the estimated 36,000 Larimer County residents who suffer from mental illness and substance use disorders. Each year, funds from insurance and federal and state sources come millions of dollars short of covering those in Larimer County who are uninsured and cannot pay for the cost of care.
Add to that the stigma many feel about acknowledging their mental illness and the side effects of medications, and it is no wonder that so many people go untreated. In 2002, a report produced for the Colorado legislature found that 66,453 Coloradans go without needed mental health care services.
And while untreated mental illnesses can wear on sufferers, it can also take its toll on the entire community: families, law enforcement, jails, homelessness, businesses and emergency services all suffer.