Mental Health Discussion Highlights Successes and Challenges

Mental Health Discussion Highlights Successes and Challenges

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon speaks to residents at Western Wyoming Community College. File photo

ROCK SPRINGS – A discussion about mental health resources in Wyoming focused on addiction recovery and the difficulties faced by Wyoming residents in seeking proper mental health care.  

Gov. Mark Gordon was in Rock Springs to host the discussion Wednesday morning, which is part of a series of town hall meetings seeking to learn more about what is successful and what needs improvement when it comes to mental health care in the state. One topic that showcased what successes are possible was drug addiction treatment, especially the county treatment court program.  

Treatment court is a nonprofit and court-ordered substance abuse treatment program that operates through partnerships between law enforcement agencies, the county attorney’s office, circuit court and others. Whitney Majhanovich said the treatment court program helped her as she would have likely been sent to prison without it, saying she learned to use local organizations as resources to help her in her recovery as she attended the treatment court program. 

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Challenges do exist as well, especially when it comes to finding access to skilled mental health care according to one Rock Springs resident. Tammi Orr is a 70-year-old resident who has dealt with mental illness in her family throughout her life. Orr said services offered to those suffering from addiction are great, but people facing other forms of mental illness don’t have those same resources available to them.

“Families simply had no idea where to turn,” she said.  

She faced challenges when she began suffering from deteriorating mental health and worked with a psychologist who she felt wasn’t experienced in diagnosing and treating mental illness in older people. She went to the Huntsman Mental Health Institute in Utah after learning about it through social media and discovered the care she needed. She wonders why local partnerships with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute or other leading mental health providers aren’t happening and dreams of a day when the state is a model for what can be done right in mental health treatment,  

Gordon said partnerships are some of the key means of improving access to mental health care, saying partnerships between government, nonprofit organization and faith-based groups could improve access and stretch available resources further. Gordon cites faith-based initiatives such as Volunteers of America and 12-step programs helping people with addiction treatment and said the state was contacted by both faith-based organizations and nonprofits in how they can better assist residents.  

Gordon also said the state isn’t looking to expand government and sees local initiatives and organizations being the best places to serve Wyoming’s residents. The legislature will consider where it can restore previous budget cuts made during the COVID-19 pandemic as it decides what to do with approximately $870 million in surplus budget funds next year. The Wyoming Department of Health and other state agencies received approximately half a billion in cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic.