Boone County health board considers changes

Mar 26, 2012

A group that oversees mental-health services in Boone County is considering merging into another city or county institution.  The Boone County Mental Health Board has suffered from sporadic meeting attendance and failed attempts to create a community mental-health fund.

Boone County’s mental-health board met earlier this month to decide whether it should consider merging with Columbia’s Board of Health or the Columbia Substance Abuse Advisory Commission. But there weren’t enough members present for an official vote. Instead, the board decided its chair, Michele Kennett, should send a letter asking the Board of Health to absorb the mental-health board.

Boone County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Mike Krohn served on the mental-health board until January. He says the board has the right intentions but says work demands prevented him and others from attending some meetings.

"That’s the same struggle I think probably every board has. I don’t think the Mental Health Board is unique in that endeavor and those, and those trials," Krohn said.

A perceived lack of community support has also troubled the board. Creating county mental-health funds was considered a key part of the 1990 state bill that established mental-health boards. But Boone County voters in 1994 rejected a property tax to raise money for that purpose.

Karen Miller is the Boone County Southern District Commissioner and the county’s liaison to the mental health board. She says the stigma attached to mental illness makes it a tough sell among voters, especially when local budgets are pressed.

A board member speaking anonymously says she’s frustrated with what she calls a lack of “political will” on the board to create a community mental health fund.

The Board of Health says it’s awaiting a letter from the mental-health board concerning its future.