Forum participants: Use mental-health funds to shorten wait times

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 | 11:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — At a public forum Tuesday at Columbia Public Library, community mental health experts discussed the state of mental health services for children in Boone County and how it could be improved.

Several people at the forum expressed an interest in using $6.5 million in funding to shorten the waiting time for professional services including psychiatrists and counselors.

The funding, for the Boone County Children’s Services Fund, comes as a result of Proposition 1, a quarter-cent sales tax approved in November 2012. Those involved in mental health services for children in the community are eager for the funds to help make a difference.

Until funds are allocated to community groups, panelists said, there is not much that can be done to decrease the delays.

The four autism centers across Missouri have wait lists that keep children and their families waiting for three to four months or more, said Melissa Armstrong, a representative of the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurological Disorders. She said that the waiting periods are unacceptable and that the community doesn't understand this. 

"One of the best ways anyone can help is to educate people on the impact of mental health in our communities and families," she said. "We need to get these providers to our children."

Christine Corcoran, with the Putting Kids First coalition, said that in the past few years, the waiting times have increased as funding has decreased. The money raised through the Boone County Children’s Services Fund should help alleviate wait times, she said, and it’s just a matter of getting the money into the community.

On May 9, the Boone County Children’s Service Board, which oversees the funds generated from the increase, sent out funding request forms to 107 potential bidders in Boone County, board member Kelly Wallis said. Organizations and groups can request funding allocations to fund programs that benefit children's services in the community.

These can include include temporary youth shelters, outpatient psychiatry and counseling services, and crisis intervention programs in schools and in the community.

Funding requests are due to the Boone County Children’s Services Board by mid-June. Wallis said the board hopes to have the funding decisions made by the end of the summer.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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