Untreated Mental Illness Costs An Estimated $139 Million in the Northland
Tom Cranshaw shares a secret known only to a few Northlanders who work in law enforcement, hospital emergency rooms and the unemployment office: untreated mental illness has a cost, a big cost.
The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City recently commissioned a study that found the estimated cost for untreated mental illness in Clay, Platte and Ray counties is $139 million annually. The figure includes avoidable costs such as emergency room use, a common treatment of “last resort” for those with serious mental illnesses who don’t receive treatment.
“Without treatment, it can lead to unemployment, increased hospital and emergency room use, incarceration, suicide and early death due to chronic medical conditions,” explained Cranshaw, CEO of Tri-County Mental Health Services. “We’re talking huge costs, as well as a tremendous burden for area residents.”
One of the report’s surprises is that approximately one in five adults in Clay, Platte and Ray counties have serious mental illnesses. Approximately 40 percent of those are not treated.
“We’ve always known that prevention and early treatment by community-based mental health programs is much better,” Cranshaw said. “This puts it in dollars and cents, right in our backyard.”
The cost estimates included areas such as unemployment, disability, institutionalization or suicide. Only about 10 percent of the overall costs were estimated to be inpatient care, long-term care or money spent by mental health organizations. In Clay, Platte and Ray counties, untreated serious mental illness was associated with an estimated 15 suicides, 2,593 incarcerations and 3,408 unemployed adults each year.
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