NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy believes not enough federal dollars are ending up where they belong, and that is helping people with serious mental issues.
People with mental health problems show up on local streets. In other cases it can be a very private and tortuous struggle.
"The largest mental health provider in almost every community is the parish jail. Not that people with mental illness are all criminals, but many end being picked up for minor charges behaving inappropriately," said Sen. Cassidy, R-Louisiana.
He wants the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to direct more resources to those battling major mental illnesses.
"Relative to their whole budget they spent almost nothing on major mental illness," said Cassidy.
Cassidy recently sponsored a senate budget amendment approved by his colleagues that he believes sets the stage for a comprehensive reform of the nation's mental health system.
He wants more of the federal dollars being spent to benefit people suffering from schizophrenia and bi-polar disease.
"They spend far more, far more on other conditions, yet these are the ones that cause a young man to pick up a gun and go shoot folks, so that's the one where families are destroyed because of that one loved one where families are destroyed because of that one loved one that cannot address these issues," said Cassidy.
"We're just excited that it has become a national, part of the national conversation," said Dr. Brenda Edgerton-Webster, Ph.D., of the Metropolitan Human Services District. MHSD has clinics and coordinates mental health services for Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes.
"In terms of our crisis response team, we are in talks, and have been in talks, and have agreements to work with the city to be embedded in the 911 program, so that when that call is made to emergency service we also receive a call and are able to simultaneously respond," said Edgerton-Webster.
And locally there are efforts to integrate behavioral care with primary health care.
"We understand that everyone needs basic primary care but that behavioral care should also be a part and integrated in some way," Edgerton-Webster stated.
"My goal is to take the federal resources and direct them to better research, more grants for communities to do innovative programs," said Cassidy.
And according to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2012 there were nearly 10 million adults with serious mental illness, or 4.1 percent of all U.S. adults.