The hidden costs of mental health

A story in Sunday’s edition of The Newnan Times-Herald cited the incredibly high costs involved in transporting and treating mental health patients.

The article, part of an ongoing series by this newspaper looking at mental health issues in Coweta County, should be an eye-opener for everyone. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and untold hours and hours of law enforcement time are thrown out the window.

According to Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager, his deputies transported more than 340 patients to facilities across the state for treatment. The closest such facility is 70 miles away in Columbus. Yeager said those transports cost the county nearly $100,000 in 2010 alone.

Those aren’t the only big numbers. The sheriff said the cost of inmate care outside of the jail was nearly $250,000, and drug treatments were over $100,000. Even worse, up to six deputies may be on the road serving as taxi drivers for these patients, with the meter constantly running and Coweta taxpayers footing the ride.

Playing chauffeur means those deputies are not in Coweta County. Meaning they are not on the streets doing what they are really paid to do — protecting local residents. Sometimes those deputies are stuck at facilities for hours waiting for a patient to get admitted. In the article, the sheriff recalled the time he nearly filed kidnapping charges against a hospital because it wouldn’t let the deputy go.

All this time, and a lot of expense, could be solved. The state recently denied a Certificate of Need for a behavioral hospital in Newnan. It claimed there were adequate facilities in the area. We’re going to, once again, disagree with that. It’s pretty clear Coweta is wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars and untold time because there isn’t anything here.

Time to start clipping these stories and sending them to the state.

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