Utah earns a D for helping mentally ill
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Deficiencies in funding and services earned Utah a D for its treatment of people with serious mental illness, according to report issued Thursday.

But then, much of the rest of the country got the same grade.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) graded states and Washington, D.C., on infrastructure, access to information on mental health, service and recovery within their public mental health-care systems.

Just five states earned a B, and 17 got a C. Eighteen other states joined Utah with a D and eight failed.

Utah got dinged for severe shortcomings in funding and services available to those not eligible for Medicaid.

State lawmakers cut $14.5 million from the budgets of community mental health centers in 2004, leaving 4,300 people without service, said Sherri Wittwer, executive director of NAMI's Utah affiliate. Lawmakers did not provide the funding this year, either.

"Our bigger concern is helping people to access mental health treatment, and because of the cuts in funding, it's becoming more and more difficult," she said. "We know treatment works. We know recovery is possible."

Utah also fell short for inadequate services in rural areas.

But the report commended the state in several areas:

* Training police officers in how to deal with people who are in a mental health crisis.

* Including mental-health courts in the criminal justice system. The courts help eligible people get the services they need to recover, Wittwer said.

* Offering peer-to-peer programs to inmates with mental illness. People who have a mental illness and are in recovery teach classes to inmates.

rlynn@sltrib.com

Utah's grades

* C- for making information on mental health and mental health services easily accessible to those who need it.

* D- for infrastructure - resources put toward collecting data on mental-health needs and planning for future needs.

* D for services.

* D+ for recovery supports, such as residential services, housing and employment opportunities.Utah's mental illness services graded a D