SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is asking for federal funding to improve Missouri's mental healthcare system.
He wants $10 million to make more services available. The biggest portion would go toward a project that would fill the gaps between mental health services and hospital emergency rooms.
The "Emergency Room Diversion" would create that partnership.
"It's one area of healthcare that really needs some extra attention right now," says Dr. Scott Henke, Emergency Medicine Doctor for Mercy Hospital. He's seeing a record number of mentally ill patients. "We are averaging anywhere between 500 to 600 patients per month."
Dr. Henke says many of those patients are making several visits to the ER.
"Whether that be because there aren't resources out there for them, or they are not getting the treatment they need they tend to wind up back here in the ER."
When a patient is diagnosed with a mental illness and leave the hospital, they are 20 percent more likely to be readmitted.
"They don't get readmitted because the hospital didn't do a good job; they get readmitted because the patient when he left didn't get the care on an ongoing basis," says Todd Schaible, Burrell Behavioral Health.
Schaible says it takes too long for patients to see a mental health professional because of large caseloads and delays.
"When they leave the hospital, they don't have two months of medication, one month of medication -- so they don't even have a means of getting ongoing medication unless they can see someone," adds Schaible.
He hopes this funding will bridge this gap by creating an ongoing outpatient system, providing more mental health services when patients leave the hospital, relieving emergency rooms.
"Their goal will be to provide interim care to these individuals while they are waiting for a permanent assignment or clinic schedule," says Schaible.
The project will be run by the Department of Mental Health. The plan is to try the project at several hospitals in Missouri, including hospitals in Springfield.