Senator Roy Blunt speaks at Family Guidance Center on Thursday morning.


Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt visited the Family Guidance Center for Behavioral Healthcare on Thursday morning to talk about improvements in mental health services and funding.

Blunt gave an overview and update on the Excellence in Mental Health Program. In 2014, legislation was passed on the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which gives states the opportunity to develop innovative behavioral health delivery models, use a prospective payment system for better reimbursement and have seamless integration of mental and behavioral health services.

Missouri is one of eight states chosen to implement a pilot program of the Excellence in Mental Health Act.

Blunt praised Family Guidance as one of the 15 community behavioral health centers and 200 overall locations in the state that is forward leaning in the cause of providing integrated mental health services.

“It’s great to see Missouri in the lead in this. It’s great to see right here in this facility, the 107-year tradition of understanding behavioral health problems need to be dealt with like all other health problems, and so we’ve got a couple of years here to really create a record that shows the other 49 states how you really do this and how it matters,” Blunt said to the large gathering of health providers, community members and law enforcement.

Blunt said in the last 40 years law enforcement and the emergency room have been the de facto mental health delivery system for the country and how that’s unacceptable. Nobody is well served by that, Blunt said.

He said that understanding behavioral health is part of understanding overall health, and that’s really what the Excellence in Mental Health Act is about.

And the need is great. Blunt said that according to the National Institute of Health, 1 in 4 adult Americans has a diagnosable, and almost always treatable, behavioral health issue. And 1 in 9 adult Americans has a mental health issue that impacts how they live every day.

“So this isn’t one isolated group dealing with a behavioral health challenge,” Blunt said.

He added that in the last half dozen years there has been more of a willingness to talk about and understand that behavioral health is a health problem.

“I think we’re going to see what happens in our state and other states is what I’ve seen happen in some pretty large county studies around the country, that you actually spend less money on health overall if you deal with behavioral health problems like all other health problems,” Blunt said.

Garry Hammond, Family Guidance Center president, thanked Blunt for his leadership and advocacy in getting Excellence in Mental Health passed.

“As a certified community behavioral health center, we take our responsibility to participate in the behavioral health-care system seriously,” Hammond said.

In the next few months, as part of the Excellence in Mental Health program, Family Guidance will begin working with Mosaic Life Care to implement an emergency room enhancement program. The mission and goal of the program is to reduce the use of emergency room services by individuals with behavioral health issues through crisis stabilization and diversion to community-based services.

Hammond praised the work between Famiy Guidance, the St. Joseph Police Department and the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office.

“Over the years we have become partners working together to safely decriminalize mental illness and addiction,” Hammond said. “In particular, our community mental health liasion has done a great job of partnering with the police and sheriff departments about behavioral health issues through ride-alongs and CIT training. CIT training can help officers safely de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.”

Hammond added that for the first time in its more than 100-year history of operation, Family Guidance has served more than 5,000 people in the past fiscal year.

By Jessica Stewart | News-Press Now