Mental health services as an alternative to police response is a relatively new concept. The main catalyst for alternatives has been race-related police brutality. However, public health, economic and racial justice crises have drastically increased the amount of mental health requests. The mental health services that have been implemented in many states, like Colorado or Wisconsin, are not able to respond to every mental health need.
According to the UW health director of behavioral health services, Beth Lonergan, Isolation, job losses, and economic uncertainty have caused a major increase in patients seeking these mental health services. This year has seen a 40% increase in demand of these services compared to last year, according to Lonergan. “At first, staying at home and having to adhere to all these limits on our life doesn’t feel as difficult,” Lonergan said. “As time wears on, I think people get worn down.”
Despite the 40% increase in mental health service demand, places like the UW Health has only seen an increase in 10% of actual appointments. This is due to the system being overtaxed and unable to meet with every patient that makes a request. Anesis, a private mental health center in Madison, has also been unable to keep up with the number of referrals and requests for counseling, McNair said. The therapy waitlist is more than 100 names long. More of this story here.