Funding not keeping up with mental health demands in Johnson County

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. – Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24. Some health officials are now calling it an epidemic in the state of Kansas.

Johnson County Mental Health officials are seeing a trend they say is moving in the wrong direction. 

"We're seeing the largest number of suicides per capita in our state, which is not a statistic we want of course to be in," said Susan Rome, deputy director of Johnson County Mental Health. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Kansas had the nation's 11th highest suicide rate in 2014.

"It's very alarming and we've unfortunately continued to see that trend go up," said Rome. 

In 2014, there were more than 400 deaths by suicide. Rome said over a fifth of them occurred in Johnson County. 

"We're struggling really to kind of figure out what all the reasons are that we're seeing that increase," said Rome. 

With more than 580,000 people in the county, only 10,000 people walk through the doors of Johnson County Mental Health. 

"We know that we're serving only a very small portion of the population that has a mental health issue," said Rome. 

Which Rome said proves their need for more awareness and funding. She added they need more money for things like suicide prevention training in the community, and for hiring more staff at the center. 

"We've continued to just find that we're not reaching all those individuals who need that help," said Rome. 

The mental health center currently gets county tax support, grants and assistance from community foundations, but Rome said it's just not enough. She adds that Johnson County Mental Health won't stop looking for the funding they need to be able to provide the best services and resources to the community. 

To contact Johnson County Mental Health, call (913) 826-4200. 

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