Mental health matters to Polk County’s wellbeing

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thousands of people battle with mental illness every day. Here in Polk County your neighbor, friend or coworker might be struggling daily and you might never know.

Making sure these people find their way to professionals who can help should be a priority for our community.

This week Smoky Mountain Center took over the coordination and management of Medicaid and state-funded services for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse. As SMC and the previous administrator, the Western Highlands Network, sort out what their “Partnership for the Future” looks like for consumers of such services, we have our fingers crossed our small county won’t be just another of many.

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SMC has already taken several steps that give us hope.

In early September, the organization held a community forum on mental health at Isothermal Community College’s Polk campus. They offered individuals and families the chance to learn about the new management organization and ask questions. Unfortunately, few attended, but the information is still available by calling 1-888-757-5762.

SMC is also working with Polk County DSS to carve out office space for SMC staff members to be located here in Polk County.

This means a closer connection with the community and a face clients can get to know and trust in times of crisis. This is critical.

The people who need the help the most can’t afford the help, especially when getting there means a trek to Asheville. Having staff here means someone will see on a day-to-day basis what challenges people here must battle.

There are services here in Polk County. But if you ask DSS Director Lou Parton, who deals with clients in need of help and services every day, she’ll tell you there certainly aren’t enough.

There aren’t enough services for youth.

There aren’t enough services for the elderly.

And there aren’t enough services for everyone in between.

There might be enough resources for someone who has unlimited financial resources, but there certainly aren’t enough for those who don’t.

When St. Luke’s Hospital promoted information about mental health back in May, Becky Brodar, community outreach coordinator for St. Luke’s Hospital Center of Behavioral Medicine, said, “Good mental health is fundamental to overall health and is essential to personal well-being and the ability to lead a healthy, balanced and productive life.”

We believe too that the mental health of Polk County’s citizens is fundamental to the health of our county. As many of these services are directed by an organization overseeing such services for 23 counties, Polk County should push to ensure a focus certainly stays on the needs of our citizens. Their health matters to Polk County.

– Editorial staff, Tryon Daily Bulletin