In Crisis: Idaho's Fragmented Mental Health System In 5 Charts

Oct 31, 2014

All week Boise State Public Radio and the Idaho Statesman have been reporting on Idaho's fragmented, underfunded, and threadbare mental health care system.

We've learned that Idaho doesn't have enough psychiatrists or treatment facilities. It doesn't have enough resources for some of the state's poorest residents.

More Idahoans are accessing mental health care once they're in the midst of a crisis, putting the financial burden on local governments.

Idaho's hospitals are trying to find ways to manage the influx of mental health emergencies. And the justice system has now become a mental health care provider.

Here are five ways to look at Idaho's mental health system.

First, mental health spending is a smaller share of the total Department of Health and Welfare budget.


That spending decline has resulted in more court-ordered involuntary commitments to the state psychiatric hospitals. These are people who are in crisis and often haven't gotten the preventive care needed to avoid an emergency.


The number of people being put on a mental hold, the first step in an involuntary commitment process has also increased. Mental holds are typically required when the person lacks a grasp on reality and refuses to seek help. Last fiscal year, 5,095 Idahoans were placed on a mental hold. That’s nearly a 40 percent increase since 2008.


Idaho is also designated by the federal government as a chronic mental health provider shortage area.


These data sets undoubtedly contribute to the high rate of suicide in Idaho, which is continually one of the highest in the nation.


"In Crisis" is a series produced in collaboration with Boise State Public Radio and the Idaho Statesman