CORRECTION: This story originally incorrectly said that Humboldt County League of Women Voters Program Director Molly Cate referred to a HCLWV position statement — “We support expansion of funding for and parity in mental health services in Humboldt County” — as “woefully inadequate.” She was actually referring to an older HCLWV position statement: “Support of a mental health facility in Humboldt County.” The error has been fixed.
It’s been a hard year and a half. The number of people facing mental health challenges nearly doubled during the pandemic, the number of people seeking help for depression and anxiety has skyrocketed, and, consequently, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention recommended last year that public health responses to the pandemic should include efforts to address those increases. And so it’s fitting that a study looking into Humboldt County’s mental health services is underway.
Headed by the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County — a nonpartisan education and advocacy group — the study will culminate in “positions” backed by the LWVHC organization, which, in theory, could lead to swaying local policy. If you want to lend a hand, they’re interested.
Every year, the League revisits its positions on various issues and evaluates whether updating those positions is needed (each issue is assessed every decade or so). The call for this study rose in February when the organization looked over its “Public Health” positions and realized that within that issue, its sole position on mental health — “Support for a mental health facility in Humboldt County” — was “woefully inadequate,” as LWVHC Program Director Molly Cate put it.
But fixing the problem is not as simple as drafting up some new positions. “We can take no advocacy or educational position on any topic of importance without doing a study on it,” Cate said (it’s a rule). Once aware of their lacking stance on mental health, League members agreed it is “very important to get this done,” Cate said.
The League wrote a new statement — “We support expansion of funding for and parity in mental health services in Humboldt County” — as a placeholder, with plans to replace it with more position in-depth position statements upon the completion of their study.
The LWV study process is a bit long. They’ll assemble a committee, which right now has about a dozen League members, Cate said, though they plan to invite folks from the Department of Health and Human Services and from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to partake as well.
Over a series of meetings, the committee will gather materials — national and local reports, statistics, studies — and conduct interviews with experts, including local folks who are members of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, for example, and some community members who’ve interacted with Humboldt’s mental health services as patients themselves.
League members will review those materials, come to a consensus and develop recommendations for “positions” for the Humboldt County League of Women Voters. If that’s done by April, the League will vote on whether to adopt those positions at their annual meeting in May, but Cate noted that it may take another year. “We are going to take our time with this,” she said.
Once positions have been adopted, the League will use them as guidance for education and advocacy. In the past, that’s included letters to government entities or letters to the editor in local news outlets. For instance, in 2017, LWVHC submitted a letter to the North Coast Journal supporting harm-reduction programs, which offer syringe exchange services. In 2019, they wrote to the State Water Resources Board supporting dam removal along the Klamath River.
LWVHC is seeking help from the community. Cate told the Outpost they welcome “anyone who has a heartfelt concern about mental health facilities and access to services here in the county.” Whether you’re familiar with some handy resources or want to share your own experience, you can send thoughts to Cate herself — at firstname.lastname@example.org — by the end of September, she requests.