Mental health care a 'crisis' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mental health care a 'crisis'

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Idaho legislators in the House and Senate will be voting this week on funding for a mental health crisis center in northern Idaho. Idaho legislators in the House and Senate will be voting this week on funding for a mental health crisis center in northern Idaho.
KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho -

Idaho legislators in the House and Senate will be voting this week on funding for a mental health crisis center in northern Idaho. This comes after a similar center opened up in Idaho Falls in 2014 with supporters saying it would save the state thousands by keeping victims of mental health issues out of the criminal justice system and local emergency rooms. The center in Idaho Falls opened on December 12, after polling showed Coeur d'Alene was the one city in the state that needed it most. That need has only increased.

"It was pretty much the best thing that ever happened to me," says Coeur d'Alene local Kevin Forell. "My life was miserable...I was stuck, I was trapped."

Forell recalls "the best thing that ever happened" not as landing the job of his dream or even getting married. No, For Forell, the best thing that ever happened was being arrested and charged with a felony.

"I hated what I was doing but I couldn't get out of it," says Forell.

Forell is schitzoaffective, a disorder of mixed mental health conditions including schizophrenia and mood disorders . This was a disorder he spent years covering with the use of meth, because in northern Idaho there are very few resources for people who suffer from mental health issues. A problem the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office knows too well.

"On a monthly basis we average 30 to 35 mental health holds in our district alone," says Lt. Stu Miller with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office.

There are only a few options available to explore when the sheriff's office is dealing with someone who has mental health issues. The hospital, however, Kootenai Health, is one of the only places in the five northern counties that offers mental health services leaving them to serve thousands of people.

Services in jail are another option, but those only apply to people who have been arrested. Even by Forell's own account, he told KHQ jail only provided a temporary solution which was quickly followed by reoffending. Miller says a mental health center would address these issues better than any jail could.

Forell says, had a service like this been available years ago, his felony charge would no longer be "the best thing that ever happened".

"I would not have done so much jail time," says Forell. "I work with a lot of people now who are not going to get arrested just so they can go to jail and get help."

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