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Survey: Arizona among worst states for mental health care availability

PHOENIX — Arizona is the one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to the availability of mental health care, a survey said.

Mental Health America ranked Arizona 46th when it comes to mental health care access. CEO Paul Gionfriddo said Arizona takes a lackluster approach to the issue.

“They traditionally wait until there’s a crisis, where people are a danger to themselves or others (before getting them help),” he said.

Gionfriddo said Arizona needs to do a better job of treating mental health issues, especially in children.

“Mental health concerns, for the most part, are diseases of childhood,” he said. “Fifty percent of them emerge by the age of 14, but we frequently lose about 10 years of time from the time kids show symptoms until the time we diagnose illnesses.”

A consultant with Mental Health America’s Arizona office said the survey does not reflect what is going on in Arizona because it is based on September 2014 statistics. Eddie Sissons said, if the survey were to be taken today, Arizona would wind up in the middle of the pack.

Sissons said things in Arizona are better than they were in 2012, when funding for mental health in Arizona dropped because of the recession.

“We lost 200,000 who were childless adults,” she said. “Sadly, some of our individuals who need those services were in those 200,000.”

Sissons said programs started by then-Gov. Jan Brewer have led to an improvement in access to mental health care in Arizona.

“A couple of years ago, the state chose to do the restoration of benefits, as well as the expansion under the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “Several of the individuals who had lost their benefits are now back on the rolls, and we are seeing an uptick in the availability of services.”

The survey ranked Vermont as the best state for mental health care access. Nevada came in last.