Boise, Feb 12, 2013 - Boise Chief of Police Michael Masterson was one of about three dozen people to testified at the joint Senate and House Health and Welfare committee hearing last Friday morning at the Statehouse, many focusing on what they said is a dire need for increased access to mental health care.
Chief Masterson told lawmakers his department responds to an average of 20 calls each day for residents experiencing a mental crisis. The Chief urges lawmakers to allow funding so mental health professionals can treat people early instead of waiting for them to reach a crisis.
To add your comments whatever they might be on this issue, follow this link to contact your legislator: http://legislature.idaho.gov/who'smylegislator.htm
Here are the Chief's notes on his comments:
Good Morning, Chairman Heider, Vice Chairman Perry and members of the Committee,
My name is Michael Masterson and I currently serve as the Chief of Police in Boise, ID.
Last month, I convened a meeting of our local media leaders to talk about suicide, attempts and people in crises. I asked them to visualize the issue as an Idaho River. Using that analogy, Boise Police respond to an average of 20 cases a day of our citizens in crises. We stop the majority of those people from reaching the Class 5 rapids, but we don’t get all of them.
We rescue on average 1.4 persons a day who are then hospitalized under Chapter 66; they survive to live another day. Regrettably the rapids (suicide) take the life of one person a week on average in my city on this short stretch of the Boise River. Multiply that scenario at least 100x for our County Sheriffs and City Police Chiefs and the numbers are staggering.
The story I just told isn’t about a river, of course, it’s an accurate description of Boise’s mental health crises in 2012. We are not alone and these troubling “statistics” are similar to what my police chief colleagues are facing on their rivers throughout the state.
Now for the upstream/downstream analogy. We can’t continue to focus exclusively on emergency rescue efforts, like building special prisons for the mentally ill, dedicating more money to emergency detentions or imposing more training on our police. We need to focus upstream and what you as our elected leader can start doing now to reduce the number of our citizens from reaching the rapids (crisis).
First, let’s ensure that throughout the State – proactive, preventative mental health services are available to reduce reliance on those working in the rapids and downstream like emergency responders, hospitals, police, jails and our prisons.
Second, as Idaho’s mental health experts, adequately fund Idaho Health and Welfare to ensure we provide early, adequate treatment programs and services that promote and support mental health services and restore services that are available and accessible to our citizens throughout Idaho. We do not have accurate numbers on the costs to “society”, but I can only guess that for every $1 more we spend upstream, we save $100 or more downstream.
I described this situation in numbers this morning, but behind every statistic there’s a face and special story.
Let’s care for and protect our people in crises just like we protect our rivers and natural resources of this great state.