The state of Oregon will soon be holding hearings to let the public voice their concerns about where money should be allocated within the Department of Human Services.
Currently, only 6.8 percent of the department's $13 billion budget is spent on the Addictions and Mental Health division.
MindFreedom International – an organization made up of mental health care consumers –is calling upon the state to financially support a advocacy office for customers of the state's mental healthcare system. The state has not funded a mental healthcare consumer advocate office in seven years and MindFreedom International is conducting a "Why Zero?" campaign to demand an increase.
David Oaks, executive director of MFI, says getting the mental health system to hear the voices of those they serve is an important first step for reform.
"This group is very disempowered," he told The Skanner News.
While Oaks' organization is "pro-choice" for patients to choose pharmaceuticals as part of their recovery plan, he criticizes the current system for putting an overreliance on medication while ignoring more holistic approaches to curing mental health problems. He said supportive housing, peer support groups, job training and other approaches can work to put mental healthcare consumers on the path to full recovery.
In the 2009-2011 budget, 58 percent of the money for mental health services went to hospital facilities, despite the fact they serve only 12 percent of mental healthcare consumers. About 88 percent of people are treated in community outpatient services.
Oaks said that leaders in the mental health system need to hear from those people who are successfully recovering from mental illness, with or without drugs. The Oregon legislature passed a bill last session that required at least one mental healthcare consumer to sit on local advisory boards for mental health services.
Oaks said the mandate came without any funding, something sorely needed for many groups who are run by and advocate for people using mental healthcare services.
And that's something Oaks hopes to change. Learn more about MindFreedom International at www.mindfreedom.org.