We’re glad to see more Wyoming lawmakers support improving mental healthcare access. This includes one of our own legislators, Senate President Ogden Driskill of Crook County.
We know what happens when people can’t access mental health treatment, because of our son's experience. We want to prevent others from going through our experience.
At Gov. Mark Gordon's mental health summit in Casper, Driskill encouraged residents to “lean on” lawmakers and tell them what changes are needed to solve the mental health crisis.
“From the legislative standpoint, all we can do is [provide] policy and money,” Senator Driskill said. “Tell us what you want from policy and help us spend money to get us to a better place.”
We want them to enact a policy that's worked in many states: Medicaid expansion.
Thousands of Wyomingites have no way to access mental health services because they don't have insurance. People like our son, who suffers from severe mental illness, would have far more access to care with Medicaid expansion.
He has been hospitalized at least seven times for mental health reasons. He is homeless and diagnosed with both schizoaffective and bipolar disorders, and experiences psychosis and mood shifts. He is not an incapable person or a lost cause. He simply needs help.
Within the last year he has been in several psych wards, one in Gillette. Although staff agreed he needed inpatient care, he was released after 10 days, in part because he was uninsured.
Despite two college degrees, he has not been able to work steadily for the past six years. He spent three months in a Rapid City jail on an aggravated assault charge that was eventually dismissed.
He needs medical treatment that the criminal justice system, especially in rural Wyoming, cannot provide.
Because Wyoming has refused to expand Medicaid, tens of thousands of residents have no health coverage and no affordable way to get insurance.
We are thankful that Senator Driskill is asking residents to suggest answers to our state’s mental health crisis. We hope he listens to what we have to say.
Linda Rogers and Randy Leinen