Harlan Still & Koch

MO official calls for more coordination between disability services

The State of Missouri offers services for people living with a developmental disability, and for those dealing with mental illness. However, a state official recently acknowledged to The Missourian, the government could do more to help people who are living with both.

Valerie Huhn, director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, said in an interview in December that her division and the division that serves those with developmental disabilities need to do a better job of communicating. Lack of back-and-forth between the two divisions is letting down the approximately 1,200 Missourians who receive services from both divisions, she said.

Some services that would benefit people with dual diagnoses simply don’t exist. Huhn noted that having short-term respite care when a patient is going through a bad period would be very beneficial, and help him or her avoid the emergency room or a jail cell. Meanwhile, options can be explored that would let him or her go back home safely.

The mental health division is experienced in dealing with these short-term crises, but the developmental disabilities department is not, Huhn said. However, the mental health teams trained to intervene do not have training for helping people with dual diagnoses. Cross-training protocols could help a great deal.

Though people with a dual diagnosis make up a small part of Missouri’s population, they are entitled to help and support to allow them to lead lives as satisfying and independent as possible. This may include Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

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