Ying Xiong appears in court for the first time.More >>
Chippewa Falls (WQOW)- Chippewa County is hoping to put more focus on mental health.
The county formed a committee focused on mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention.
"Our goal right now is prevention and early intervention," said Barry Boyer, Chippewa County mental health advocate.
Health experts believe the earlier you recognize mental health issues the more treatment options you have and there are concerns that people are slipping through the cracks.
"Wisconsin and Minnesota have similar state populations, 5 million plus. We have twice as many people in prison as Minnesota does and the majority of people in prison have mental health and alcohol or other substance abuse problems and prison is not a place to receive adequate treatment for those concerns," said Boyer.
"The Department of Human Services in Chippewa County was getting a lot of feedback from the community concerned about mental health and substance abuse and the challenges that are out there," said Larry Winter, Chippewa County Department of Human Services.
That's why Chippewa County has a committee in place to increase awareness.
"There is still a large stigma attached to folks that have mental illness or live with a mental illness and this matter of stigma is important for us and we think we can address some of that through education," said Boyer.
The committee recently received a grant.
"We have $5,400 next year, in 2013, to apply to education and prevention and early intervention," said Boyer.
"It comes down to access. The concern of the challenges we have with access," said Winter.
"Access is so important. We have some limited access to psychiatrists per our population, I think we have fewer than many communities do," added Boyer.
The committee hopes to change that through an action plan that could soon be in the works.
One area the county has been working on in recent years is suicide prevention. The county ranks above the state average.
In 2009, there were 14 suicides in Chippewa County and 12 the year after that. In 2011, there were 13 suicides in Chippewa County through the first four months of the year. Statistics for the rest of the year were not available.
On Thursday, the committee will meet to discuss what to do with the grant and how to move forward with an action plan.
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