Attack mental health crisis

A three-year trend of annual spikes in the number of avian flu cases locally, or West Nile virus infections, would likely have health officials scrambling to figure out the cause of the outbreaks and working to prescribe remedies.

The same should be true of the mental health issues outlined by Mesa County Attorney Lyle Dechant this week.

According to Dechant, the number of short-term, court-ordered mental health holds filed through his office has been rapidly climbing since 2009. In 2012, there were almost four times as many such holds as there were in 2009, and the number in January of this year was nearly double the number from the first month of last year.

The mental health holds — initially for 72 hours, but they can be extended for up to 90 days — amount to mandated hospitalization for people who are unable to resolve whatever mental health issues caused them problems in the first place. Often they pose a threat to themselves or others.

Better awareness by the public about mental health problems may account for some of the increase. But other factors are also involved, and mental health experts need the resources to examine them and propose solutions.

Additionally, the growth in mental health holds is another reason to support Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposals to increase the number of mental health beds available statewide. That would help free up more beds locally, experts say.


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