Probate judge-elect plans to focus on mental illness

The probate judge, who takes office in January, said addressing mental health is one of his main priorities.

Posted: Nov 8, 2018 6:06 PM
Updated: Nov 9, 2018 2:46 PM

WAAY 31 learned more about mental health services available to people in Madison county. The probate judge, who takes office in January, said addressing mental health is one of his main priorities.

Probate judge-elect, Frank Barger, said he wants that number to come down, and the number of repeat cases they see. He said he thinks he knows where the change needs to come.

"Last year, we committed more than 350 individuals in Madison county, with more than half of those, we committed two or more times. We do a good job completing the technical requirement, doing what the law requires for us, but after we stabilize the situation, we don't do the best job after that," he said.

Wellstone Behavioral Health in Madison county is one of five facilities in the state that takes people who are committed from Madison County, and the patients stay until they are no longer believed to be a danger to themselves, which could be up to 150 days. The facility has 16 beds.

"When they are discharged from the facility, technically their commitment ends so any treatment they receive after that point is voluntarily," said Jeremy Blair with Wellstone Behavioral Health.

Funding or lack there of is something Barger is concerned about.

"A number of years ago, our state legislature moved somewhere around $40 million from the budget related to mental health. We lost facilities' beds, the ability to serve people well and we got to work on that too," Barger said.

Blair says funding hasn't been increased for core services in 15 years.

"When you consider the amount of services and people we serve over that 15-year of time, I think the resources might always see a challenge," Blair said.

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