Kentucky has the fastest growing prison population in the United States. Far too many of these prisoners suffer with serious and persistent mental illness, SPMI.
Ironically, Kentucky's state budget cuts occur during a time of economic crisis when mental heath services are needed even more urgently than before.
Helping a loved one who is experiencing a severe mental health crises, especially someone who may not realize they are sick (lack of insight or Anosognosia), is a challenging burden for a family member. I know because I live in this nightmare for many years.
Lack of mental health funding leads many who don't get the care they desperately need to fall into the criminal justice system. According to a recent report from Clinical Psychiatry-News, more than 800,000 people with severe mental illness are jailed annually in the United States.
According to a recent report by NAMI, Kentucky maintained state spending for non-Medicaid mental health services from 2009 to 2011. However, the state still shortchanges mental health, ranking 46th nationally in per capita spending.
As an artist, I have stepped outside of my comfort zone to speak out against the criminalization of people who have SPMI. I would much rather be in my art studio creating, but find myself driven to change what I know is wrong and inhumane!
Due to this heartache, I have created this educational-advocacy project to encourage Kentuckians to share their stories and lived experiences with legislators, regarding the need to improve Kentucky's mental health laws. As a mental health advocate, my motto is: “I am an advocate for those who are unable to participate in their own recovery, due to their lack of insight or anosognosia."
Providing timely and effective treatment to people with SPMI is something the citizens of Kentucky must learn to do. Failing to do so brings a huge cost in human lives and in vital budget resources. Consequently, this increases the risk of suicide, adds greatly to homelessness, drives up hospital costs, increases jail and incarceration rates, and puts too many at risk of violence and homicide.
In the future, I hope to post many stories that reflect why we need to change mental health laws in Kentucky. Please help me spread the word.
Artist, Mom and Mental Health Advocate
TO SHARE YOUR STORY, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL TO:
The family has become the institution. But it's an institution without training, without resources, and without the ability to enforce compliance. ~ Rael Jean Isaac, author of "Madness in the Streets"