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Expanded gambling will lead to expanded addictions

To the Editor:

Our Governor and members of the General Assembly have not explored the future costs of treating Kentucky’s 60,000 addictions that will come from gambling addiction- should the referendum on expanded gambling pass.

In the questions about GAMBLING EXPANSIONS it should be made mandatory by members of the Assembly that a debate is needed on the cost of treating state sponsored gambling addiction. According to National Demographics three percent of the USA population are known gambling addicts. The profile on the cost to treat addition looks like this.

Within next five years, if expanded gambling passes, Kentucky must treat near 60,000 gambling addicts. If the cost house to a prisoner -where many with mental illness or drug addiction are housed- Mr. Vicini reports that cost is between sixteen and thirty thousand dollars each.

In the demographic profile Kentucky will have 60,000 citizens with a new mental illness (GAMBLING ADDICTION). Using the lower number of $16,000- to house a prisoner- which is the low end of the MR. Vicini report- does not count the 27,000 addicted to various other mental illness in Kentucky.

A fair minded person would consider funding addiction which was enabled by our state, before the HORSE SETS gets any money. Our Governor and General Assembly have no idea of this cost.

Ginny Vicini, is executive director for New Beginnings, Lexington Kentucky. New Beginnings is an alternative mental health provider.

MR. Vicini reports forty percent of the people in its program had a history of incarcerations before moving into New Beginnings. In the past three years, none have been reincarcerated.

On average, it costs taxpayers from $16,000 to more than $30,000 a year to house an inmate in a Kentucky prison. (There are no figures on the states cost of treating mental illness per patient.)Be assured it is not anywhere near the figures for housing prisoners.

Mr. Vicini reports a home, effective treatment and a chance to contribute to the greater good — is what it takes to recover from mental illness. (Gambling addiction is among the widest spread human addiction.)

Against the odds, people rebuild their lives after the devastation of illnesses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or depression, gambling addition but finding effective treatment and wraparound services is key.

Kentucky dollars haven't increased since 1995. Much of the previous money for mental health has been shifted to the justice system. (I.e. a million acres of new court houses in Kentucky and most by Codell Constructions Company of Winchester ... who happens to be an aggressive supporter of Governor Steve Beshear.)

According to a recent report Kentucky maintained state spending for non-Medicaid mental health services from 2009 to 2011. However, the state still shortchanges mental health, ranking 46th nationally in per capita spending.

In this distressed economy, more people than ever need help. No one knows how the previous action of “managed care!”

Kentucky Medicaid is moving to a managed-care approach where the state pays a set "capitation rate" for every person enrolled in Medicaid. The National Association of Mental Health Institutes is worried.

Will community mental health providers be squeezed to enable the for-profit companies to meet the terms of the contract?

Mental illness is a disease, not a crime. It is wrong to allow the criminal justice system to be the default mental health safety net simply because we don't have the will to adequately fund mental health services.

The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy reports that a large percentage of its clients are suffering with some form of mental illness. This illness can take the form where the person is not competent to stand trial, or was not well enough at the time of an event to appreciate the criminality of the actions. Further, many clients still suffer from mental illnesses, and yet gambling addiction has not been added to the mental health treatments. Those illnesses do not qualify under the legal definition of insanity. However, their mental illness can many times explain the criminal action. Also, the Kentucky Department of Corrections runs a separate psychiatric facility in La Grange for offenders with mental illness.

While best practices exist in some regions, the lack of adequate funding continues to plague operations. Efforts to spread good models to more communities are on hold. Kentucky needs to strengthen effective mental health programs. People's lives hang in the balance

*GG Burns of Lexington is an artist and mental health advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Kentucky.

Jim Stivers


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