Pushing for Mental Health Stabilization Act

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Statistics say drug overdoses, suicide rates and the number of homeless people with mental illnesses is on the rise in West Virginia, but now some people in the area are working to change that.

It all has to do with the mental health stabilization act of 2009.

The bill has already been passed by the house and the senate, and now many who are in some way or another affected by a mental illness are joining together to urge Governor Manchin to sign it and make it a law.

"He would like to live as normal of a life as he can, but there's no support," Theresa Sapp said about her son.

Sapp's son was diagnosed with a mental illness about five years ago, and now her main concern is his future.

"As a mom that's real hard to think, that someday when he doesn't have that support that he's gonna be homeless, and when we see these people that are homeless and people say they need to get a job; a lot of those people can't work. They need a place to live. They need support," she said.

But if Senate Bill 672, the Mental Health Stabilization Act of 2009 passes, that future could be brighter for Sapp's son and many others.

"It would keep these people out of hospitals. It gives them a purpose in life. Everybody wants a purpose," Sapp said.

A purpose that Sarah Stephens says is her five children.

"They mean everything to me, and it means everything that I set an example for them," Stephens said. "And to sit around and be depressed about all the world's problems and to isolate myself isn't going to do anyone any good."

Supporters say if people like Stephens get the help they need now, it could save money in the long-run.

"It's cheaper to treat people in the community and give them support than it is to hospitalize them, and it's better in terms of quality in care," Tom Susman, a consultant with the W.Va. Behavioral Healthcare Providers, said.

Officials say West Virginia was once a leader in mental health services, but funding cuts over the last 15 years has reversed that progress.

If the bill becomes a law it will allow up to $6 million to be spent on a variety of programs and services.

To make sure that happens supporters plan on calling the governor's office and telling their stories.

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