The Wyoming Legislature’s Judiciary committee is slated to meet this week (Monday-Wednesday) in Casper. On the agenda is an overview of a bill draft dealing with involuntary hospitalization and …
The Wyoming Legislature’s Judiciary committee is slated to meet this week (Monday-Wednesday) in Casper. On the agenda is an overview of a bill draft dealing with involuntary hospitalization and emergency detainment of mentally ill persons.
Two area legislators discussed the impact of cuts of $7.5 million to the state Department of Health, which includes mental health and drug or alcohol addiction treatment.
Both Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams and Sen. R.J. Kost did note it was too early to fully determine what the entire impact on mental health services will be.
“Mental health has law enforcement correlations and impacts hospitals and first responders,” said Williams. “We are lucky in Park County to have as many services as we do and there are state funded centers for help as well.”
However, she did go on to say that while access to care is good, she is thinking of how the cuts to the department of health could impact those services.
“Cuts to mental health concern me, especially with the year we just went through with COVID. I know providers and community mental health centers are busy. That’s good because that means people are getting the mental health care they need,” Williams said. She went on to add state funded facilities are essential even in the face of budget cuts.
“I believe strongly in funding community level prevention and community level mental health care. Incarceration is not the place for people living with mental illness.” Williams has been involved in multiple advocacy groups dealing with mental health and care for those suffering from mental illness.
“These are very important issues and we can all play a role in mental health,” Williams said.
Sen. R.J. Kost had hope for filling the cost gap between cuts and needs, though.
“I have great concerns about those programs (that care for the mentally ill and those with addictions) and want to seek the best ways to help those individuals that need help,” he said.
However, Kost is taking a wait and see approach until it is determined how federal relief money can be used.
“Right now, the cuts from the department of health could have assistance from the ARP (American Relief Plan),” he said.
Kost is also busy on several other topics from committees on which he serves. The school facilities meeting was largely procedural, Kost said, so that the Legislature and the Wyoming Department of Education carefully blend their projects and spending on facilities.
“We want to communicate and spend it the way it was supposed to be spent,” he said. That meeting was held June 7.
Since the mid-summer special session was canceled in early June by Gov. Mark Gordon, the legislative committees will not have the option to bring any items up for discussion until the Legislature convenes a budget session on Feb. 14, 2022.