The $49 billion state budget proposal includes several efforts to help Missourians dealing with a mental or behavioral health crisis. Valerie Huhn, the director of the state Department of Mental Health, tells Missourinet the budget proposal contains additional federal funding to launch a national 988 crisis hotline in July.

Valerie Huhn (Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Mental Health)

She says she is excited about the launch – and other initiatives that go hand in hand.

“That’s going to help our hospitals,” she says. “That’s going to help law enforcement and it’s going to get people services they need substantially quicker.”

Missouri is working to open 18 behavioral health crisis centers by October – at least 10 are already open. Huhn says the state is also working on putting together 45 mobile crisis response teams.

“When we talk about crisis, we know people need someone to talk to, which is what 988 gives us. We know that they need someone that will respond to them and then we also need somewhere for them to go,” Huhn says.

She says one of the concerns will be finding enough workers to help with these efforts.

“We’ve been working on part of that workforce for a while, but you’re correct, that is part of our concern. So we can we can be ready capital wise, but then are we ready employee wise? What we’ll need to be doing over the next year, as this rolls out, is evaluating, and this is our community providers evaluating where we need to get the staff – is it mobile crisis that needs more staff? Is it the behavioral health centers? We know what we know, but we know we don’t know everything here. So we’ll be we’ll be watching that and identifying where the biggest bang for our workforce buck is, so to speak,” says Huhn.

The deadline for the governor to take action on the state budget proposal is the end of June.

To listen to the Show Me Today interview with Missouri Department of Mental Health Director Valerie Huhn, click below.

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