County receives millions in opioid settlement
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is looking for ways to use federal coronavirus relief dollars to meet growing mental health needs in the county.
County health officials are on track to see more patients this year who need mental health services than in the past five years, Page said in a May 25 briefing.
“The need for mental health services in the county far exceeds capacity. Based on the first quarter of this year, the public health department is on track to see more patients who need mental health services than in the past five years,” Page said. “Until this year, the health department was seeing about 2,300 patients a year for mental health issues. This number is on track to exceed 3,000 patients this year. »
There are two sources of funding available to address mental health services, the first being approximately $74 million in unrestricted funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, as well as $45 million from a payment of a joint settlement with opioid manufacturers. and distributors. According to Page, 75% of respondents to a county survey of how to spend federal relief funds identified increased access to mental health services as a top priority.
Page said he would work with the county council on how best to allocate the money.
The county offers mental health services at its three clinics in Sunset Hills, Berkley and Pine Lawn, including depression screening, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, medication assistance treatment and more. Again. Page said the health department prioritizes those with Medicaid and those without health insurance. The health department also provides referrals to partner organizations.
“There are two areas where the ministry could significantly expand its services if funding were available. The first is mental health case management. … The second area we need to develop is drug treatment,” Page said. “This includes a dramatic increase in harm reduction programs specifically for alcohol and opioid use.”
According to Page, the county has seen a steady increase in opioid overdose deaths, with 343 opioid-related deaths in the county in 2021, similar to 2020.
Increased funding could be used to get more Narcan to help overdose victims. All St. Louis County police officers carry Narcan, as do many city departments. Narcan is available free of charge at county health centers.
May was Mental Health Awareness Month and Page also highlighted the May 24 elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas during his briefing on the need to expand mental health services.
“Children’s mental health has been identified as a health crisis by the Surgeon General. … Our families are hurting,” Page said. “Our kids should be looking forward to a summer of fun…and instead they’re trying to process the unfathomable. A mass shooting at a Texas elementary school.
The county’s Children’s Service Fund, which provides resources for young people with mental health needs, also brings in $42 million a year through a quarter-cent sales tax. Page said the fund is working to find ways to increase its services. The fund also provides a hotline for youth 19 and under and their families at 314-819-8802. The helpline is available 24/7.