Behavioral Health, Party Unity and Governor Otter’s Politics Collide With State Realities

Let’s start with the Realities: the press loves a guy that spends taxpayer money creating new agencies — knowing that the tax funds which are NOT wasted on bureaucrats can be paid to businesses relying on tax money for profit. Curtain Climbing Politicians take note!

In the last two years, Governor Otter created the Exchange Board, the Wolf Board, and a Transformational Mental Health Board. The realities are that decisive leadership could have dealt effectively with these (government created) problems empowering private solutions. Instead, our leadership believes that the state can and should fix what it broke with the same tools and reasoning for both. (No one will be surprised in twenty or thirty years when these bureaucracies have fixed nothing and are complaining about tight budgets.)

Everyone knows the Governor lost Idaho’s three biggest counties in the recent Primary Election.(Kootenai is one of them.)
And it’s no wonder: Conservative Republicans can tell when a guy has been a ‘public servant’ too long. How? He talks about Limited Government while addressing every issue with a new government bureaucracy; He talks about keeping taxes low while making sure taxpayers pay for a purported ‘fix’ that will never end; He talks about Individual Responsiblity while assuring that the state regulates everything: from whom we must buy insurance to whether our ‘behavior’ fits within the new definition of "mental health."

Now that we learn that north Idaho scored highest in need for the new mental health facility, we also learn that politics played the major role in choosing Idaho Falls for placement thereof. The stated reason, almost immediately parrotted by the couple of Otter sycophants (read Legislators) here in the north, was the lack of ‘support’ by the conservative north Idaho Legislators. (Well, hey! We gotta blame someone!) And let’s not forget that south Idaho is the one area the Governor carried in the Primary.

Let me address the substance of the new behavioral health law: The state has stepped in to redefine ‘mental health’ in a big way. The so-called ‘transformation’ is truly state intervention into everyone’s behavior: hence the new label of ‘behavioral health’ takes the place of the old, outmoded, and more limited ‘mental health.’ As Representative Kathy Sims has stated: This new law "launches the State of Idaho directly into the mental health care business . . . And assumes the responsibility for the care of any and all ‘behavioral health care crises’ within the State." It should be no surprise that addressing behavioral health requires the use of Psychotropic Drugs. (Another reality: Treatment requires drugs.)

And you should have seen what this new law defined as a "Behavioral Health Crisis" before north Idaho Senator Steve Vick pointed out how closely was the definition of ‘behavioral crisis’ to the very description of the human condition. For example, Financial Pressures combined with Marital Stress would put you nicely within the purview of a ‘crisis’ requiring state intervention. (Who has NOT experienced financial stress? And when does finacial pressure NOT create marital stress?)

A narrower set of circumstances now supports state intervention. But I’m convinced that the original all inclusive definition will be adopted in time. It’s the nature of the beast. In the meantime, each new intervention will, when combined with every other intervention, require a bigger facility with a bigger budget. Conservative Republicans in Idaho get it: each bureaucracy must grow and consume more taxpayer money each and every year until Doom’s Day. Nothing gets ‘fixed’ and the problem gets bigger. And again, now we have three new major bureaucracies created in just two years. This from our ‘Limited Government’ Governor.

There’s more detail I could go into regarding why I did not support creating this transformational mental health board, but the reality is that this was bad law for many reasons: It is expensive; It doesn’t supplement existing mental health facilities but draws resources away from communities where such facilities already exist; It does not address the root issue which is the over-prescribing of psychotropic drugs to deal with one’s challenges in life. Children and adults alike. (By the way, 2 in 5 new inmates in our state prisons are ALREADY on psychotropic drugs. Which begs at least two questions: Is there no cause and effect connection here? and how many MORE are prescribed these drugs AFTER incarceration?) Just as importantly, the law has created a new agency that, by its nature, must nurture mental (oops! behavioral) health issues to justify its existence.

These days the Governor is big on being ‘realistic.’ So when he brings it all down to politics, we know what he means. The reality is conservative Legislators better stay in line with the rest. Party unity is suddenly very important. However, we in the north can’t push our fellow taxpayers down that road for the sake of our political ‘careers.’ We’ll leave that to the Political Curtain Climbers.