Like other parts of the country, Idaho has faced increased mental health and substance misuse challenges during the last year. Here we look at a few recent stories of behavioral health in Idaho.
Behavioral Health Services Fragmented, Uneven in Idaho Schools
A new survey of Idaho schools, conducted by Education Northwest with support from the State Department of Education, found that behavioral health programs in the state’s K-12 schools vary widely. The survey asked about the availability of behavioral health services before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although most school leaders say that behavioral health services benefit students and teachers, only 60 precent of districts have a strategy or practice that supports all students. Only 27 percent reported that they had a “‘structured program.” Rural and charter schools offered fewer behavioral health services, but non-rural districts said they lacked the resources to expand their behavioral health offerings. What programs are available were rarely assessed.
Idaho Lawmakers Divided on Marijuana Use
The Idaho Senate has approved a measure to amend the state constitution to prevent the legalization of any psychoactive drug not approved by the FDA, including marijuana. This proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 101, was approved 24-11. If passed, the amendment would prohibit legalization of such drugs for any purpose, including medical use. All seven Democratic senators voted against the amendment, partly to keep the legalization of medical cannabis as an option for Idaho.
At the same time, the House is preparing to introduce a bill that moves in a different direction. Idaho Rep. Mike Kingsley (R-Lewiston) is partnering with House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) and others to propose a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, with restrictions. Part of the intent of this bill would be to keep medical marijuana from becoming recreational, to reduce use of opioid pain medications, and discourage Idahoans from entering neighboring states to purchase marijuana for pain management.
Donations Go to Help Mental Health in Rural Idaho
Four Idaho nonprofits have received a total of $1.3 million from Cambia Health Solutions to address behavioral health needs in rural Idaho. These donations include:
$1 million to help the Idaho Primary Care Association expand access to mental health services and reduce the stigma of mental health issues
$145,700 to help NAMI Idaho hire additional staff for its peer support network
$100,000 to the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline to help its messaging and create partnerships with other organizations in rural communities
$100,000 to Empower Idaho to expand its work addressing social determinants of health
Alcohol Consumption Rises in Idaho
U.S. alcohol consumption has increased significantly during the pandemic. DrugAbuse.com, which provides resources related to substance misuse treatment, found that Idaho on average became a “heavy drinker.” According to the CDC, “heavy drinking” is defined as more than 14 drinks per week for men over 12 months, and more than 7 per week for women. The average Idaho adult consumed about 14 standard-size drinks per week in 2020. However, this still falls beneath the national average of 17 per week.
Struggling to keep up with rising demand for behavioral health services? BestNotes is pleased to support mental health and addiction treatment providers in Idaho and across the nation. Contact us today to learn about how our services, with customizable features like telehealth capabilities and eprescribing, can help you stay ahead of your workload, improve patient outcomes, and increase profitability.