Department wants increase in mental health services

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The Walla Walla County Department of Human Services is planning to approach county commissioners soon to discuss new ways to bring additional mental health services to Walla Walla County, said Executive Director Daryl Daugs.

"We are seeing higher levels of incarceration, increased homelessness among families with children and, of recent, an increase in the numbers of suicides among both youth and adult populations."

Only residents eligible for Medicaid and Veterans Affairs coverage are able to receive comprehensive mental health and addiction care through the county. For most other residents, there is but one psychiatrist in town who treats adults, he pointed out. Others must travel to Tri-Cities, Spokane or Yakima, sometimes waiting months for an initial appointment.

The hope is to hire a practitioner for psychiatric management of child and adolescent care, and two practitioners dedicated to the needs of adult and elder services.

Daugs also would like to add an addictions and chemical dependency specialist to provide prevention and recovery services to students in area schools and assist in the coordination of a community-wide approach to prevention and rehabilitation.

His agency would like to provide mental health services to all county residents, regardless of income or insurance status, the director said.

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