Lack of mental health beds is costing Idaho in multiple ways

Idaho lacks mental health beds
Posted at 4:14 PM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-13 18:14:19-04

A new private mental health facility is scheduled to open in Meridian early next year providing 75 extra beds for the mentally ill.

But it's a drop in the bucket for a state that routinely ranks last on spending for the mentally ill.

And the lack of mental health beds is an expensive proposition for us all.

High emergency room costs, drug abuse, crowded prisons, overwhelmed police forces... All can be connected -- to some extent --  with Idaho's lack of mental health care.

For example, consider the case of Trevor Huddleston who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder four years ago.

Before that, his mom says he was just a normal kid.  "He was an honor roll student, who graduated with honors." says Korene Eastham, "He had a really good future ahead of him and to have this happen just kills us."

What happened -- four years ago -- was a car accident.... and a brain injury that changed Trevor forever.

Since his diagnosis, which also included bi-polar disorder, Trevor's world -- and his family's -- flew apart.

He spent some time in a mental hospital where, fortunately, medication worked wonders.
But effective medication can be a double-edged sword for those who don't understand how important it is to maintain that medication.

"He's taken his meds and gets back to normal," explain Eastham,  "and then he stops taking them when he gets out because he thinks he's fine."

Neglecting his meds and back on the streets, Trevor was recently charged with petty theft -- his mom says it was his first run in with the law.

Eastham says Trevor refused his meds in jail, he ended up striking an officer during an altercation. Now he could face serious prison time.

"He called me and started talking about dying and how he needed to die," says Eastham, "He felt like god wanted him to die."

Trevor's case is very familiar to beat cops who see mental health cases daily and must determine if they need to be detained.

The process generally involves a 48-hour psych hold on those who are gravely disabled or considered a threat to themselves or others.

But finding a mental health bed is a daily challenge.

"Really it boils down to we need more treatment facilities," says Nampa Police Sgt. Tim Riha. 

There are only about 200 mental health beds in Ada County.

Often, officers are forced off the streets while they try to place someone in a mental health bed, a process that could take all day.

And that's just one more issue making our streets less safe.

And police say it's hard to see people who could be helped, going without.

"It's extremely frustrating," says Riha, "All of us got into this to help people and it's frustrating when you can't get people the help they need."

Trevor is one of those people. Who instead of getting some help to maintain his medication, could end up in our already overcrowded prison system.

A thought his mother says she can't bear.

"My good boy, my son. Who's going to make a difference one day in this world.  His life is just on hold right now."