In my story on the new paradigm in mental health funding, I quoted experts who said cutting clinicians at local mental health clinics while adding supplemental mental health services is a backwards approach to mental health treatment.

Dr. Jay Slosar, former president of the Orange County Psychological Association, described clinicians and their relationships with their patients as the “nitty gritty” of any mental health treatment program.

But not every expert agrees that the new funding direction is a bad thing. Dr. Sharon Gerstenzag, also a member of the association, says new funding should be directed to early prevention programs. The programs, Gerstenzag says, will reduce the number of mentally ill people in the future.

“There will never be enough clinicians to treat everybody if we don’t get some early prevention going,” Gerstenzag said.

For the people who depended on clinician services and the old system, Gerstenzag says the kind of full range of “safety net” services they need isn’t available anyway, and the clinician services are only slightly helping. She says some become dependent on the mental health system and lose the desire to “empower” themselves.

“If I look back on them, I just did a little bit, and I gave them a little bit of a hand hold — but they’re still pretty lost,” Gerstenzag said. “A lot of them end up just medicated — which doesn’t change them … unfortunately.”

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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