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Health, Science, Environment

St. Louis County plans to use coronavirus relief funds for mental health patients

Sam Page stands at a lectern in front of flags in this file photo taken in 2021.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says the health department is seeing a huge increase in mental health patients and wants to use federal relief dollars for case management and addiction treatment.

St. Louis County Health officials this year are seeing more patients who need mental health services than they have in any of the past five years, and County Executive Sam Page wants to use a portion of federal coronavirus relief dollars to bolster the county’s flagging mental health services.

Mental health resources for uninsured patients and those on Medicaid are particularly in need of money, Page said during a briefing Wednesday morning.

“Based on the first quarter of this year, the Department of Public Health is on track to see more patients that need mental health services than in the last five years,” he said.

The health department is on track to see 3,000 patients for mental health concerns, based on the first quarter of the year, he said. The St. Louis County Department of Public Health sees patients at its three clinics in Berkeley, Pine Lawn and Sunset Hills. Health workers also refer patients to health services at several other nonprofit organizations and clinics in the region.

“Given the overwhelming community needs, there must be more done,” Page said. “And there are funding opportunities in St. Louis County that we’ve never had before.”

The first bucket of funding comes from approximately $74 million in unappropriated federal coronavirus relief funds, he said. In a recent community needs survey of county residents on how to best use the money, 75% of respondents said they would like to see it go to mental health services.

Page’s office would work with the county council on how and where to direct that money.

Page also wants to use some of the money from the county’s $45 million in payouts from a joint settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors for mental health services. The settlement money can be appropriated for addiction treatment and prevention, one of the mental health issues most in need of attention, Page said.

A reported 300 people in St. Louis County died of opioid-related causes in 2021, which tied the record set by the county in 2020.

Page said he would like to use the opioid settlement money to expand access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone and to connect more people to addiction medication, housing and employment.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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