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An Overview of Mental Health in Meridian, Idaho
Meridian, Idaho is a fast-growing suburb of Boise, the state capitol. It is the second-largest city in Idaho with a population of 99,926. Home buying in Meridian is attractive to younger professionals with families because of lower property taxes. Nearby access to Idaho’s capital city provides a convenient source of private and government employment opportunities.
Surprisingly, Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the nation. Its natural beauty, friendly small-town ambiance and extensive offerings of both cultural and sporting activities make the area attractive to newcomers. Low housing prices, a commerce-favorable tax structure and cheap labor rates draw many new companies to the city.
Increasing Challenges to Mental Health
Idaho’s rapidly changing demographics, while boosting the economy, can also provide unexpected challenges. City infrastructures are inadequate to support the number of people moving in. Traffic snarls and aggressive drivers add to the stress. Home prices are inching upward. Growing pains are evident. Long-time Meridian residents can no longer find affordable rental units. With more people, big-city problems are becoming an unwelcome reality to local citizens.
Meridian has its share of aging citizens, many of whom lack access to long-term memory care units or treatment for dementia. The stigma of mental illness can isolate people and make it harder to seek help. Employees may not request mental health accommodations in the workplace because they fear job loss.
A well-known woman stated how bizarre it seemed to her that people who have asthma take asthma medication, or people with diabetes take diabetes medication, but people stigmatize those with mental illness for taking the medicine they need for their condition. Unfortunately, this attitude exists in many areas of the country.
Problems in the Idaho Health Care System Affect Meridian
Idaho ranks as the second worst state in America in studies relating to the treatment of mental health. This rank indicates that there is a very high need for mental health services in Idaho, but there are relatively few mental health providers in the state to address these needs.
According to a recent news article, Idaho is still experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The state lacks access to substance abuse and mental health services, in spite of a ten-year initiative to study possible solutions. Some of the problems cited include:
A low ratio of mental health providers for a variety of mental illnesses exists.
- Mental Illness is misunderstood and stigmatized in Idaho.
- Minorities are less likely to seek help.
- Lawmakers in Idaho continue to place a low priority on mental health funding.
- Idaho’s depression and suicide rates are higher than the national average.
- Opioid crisis and overdose deaths are high.
- The divorce rate is at 10.5 percent, indicating a need for therapy.
- Physical health takes priority over mental health needs.
- Hospital emergency rooms or criminal justice systems deal with the mentally ill.
- No statewide program exists to integrate physical and behavioral health care.
Suggestions from the ten-year initiative included taking steps to erase the stigma of mental illness. The committee explained the need for expanded screens for substance abuse, depression and suicidal ideation. They also stated that a critically severe budget shortfall for mental health diagnosis and treatment is long overdue for legislative correction. Lack of prevention and early intervention services leads to later treatment capacity problems. The state needs to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates to encourage mental health providers to accept Medicaid patients.
Mental Health Services Are Available
State-funded community health centers provide a degree of mental health services. The statewide Idaho Division of Behavioral Health, with a service campus in Meridian, is one resource for those needing mental health care. It also provides interpreters and language assistance for the mentally ill, as well as help for the sight or hearing-impaired. For mental illness in young people, the Idaho Parent Network for Children’s Mental Health assists families in learning how to raise children with mental health challenges.
Idaho recently received an award of 4.1 million dollars to combat the state opioid epidemic. The award will also help fund Idaho’s pilot program of drug recovery care and coaching instead of jail time. Qualified providers will train in the use of as part of a pilot recovery system.
E-Counseling’s directory is a valuable resource for Meridian citizens to use when searching for certified mental health providers.