Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dear Wyoming Reps: Don't waiver on mental health legislation

Here's the text of a letter I e-mailed to Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, supporting his stance on increased funding for mental health care and substance abuse treatment. I copied it to my representative, Lori Millin, D-Cheyenne, in the hopes that they can work together and keep Wyoming from backsliding on this issue. While the Legislature commences Tuesday, there's still time to contact your rep on this issue. For background info, see my previous posts on this issue.

Here's the letter:

Dear Rep. Gingery:

Thank you for your outspoken stance on increasing support for mental health and substance abuse programs in Wyoming.

I speak as a parent whose son Kevin spent a year in a drug treatment center 2,000 miles away because there was no place to send him in Wyoming. He was 17 at the time, and now is 23 with six years of sobriety in A.A. He goes to school in Arizona.

Our daughter Annie just finished a five-month stay at Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper. She was being treated for bipolar disorder. Before WBI, she spent six months at Mountain Crest Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo. Treatment costs were very high, and we would not have been able to afford it with my State of Wyoming health insurance. The Great West plan paid for approximately six weeks of in-patient mental health care. It's possible that the Mental Health Parity Legislation that passed Congress late in 2008 will provide some relief to families with mental health care challenges.

How did we afford our daughter's treatment? The Children's Mental Health Waiver funded by Medicaid through the Wyoming Department of Health. It also helps pay for an after-care program. It took some research and a bit of paperwork to get into this program, but it was well worth it.

Let's keep funding these programs. And find ways to keep our kids closer to home when they need treatment.

Thanks for all you do on behalf of Wyoming families.

Michael Shay, Cheyenne

P.S.: I'm forwarding a copy of this e-mail to my state representative, Lori Millin, who's been very supportive of health-care legislation.

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