Web Site First Step in Mental Health Care

March 23, 2004
Catherine Gabe, Cleveland Plain Dealer

ELYRIA, Ohio - Lorain County is pioneering a free Web site heralded as a revolutionary way to help people navigate mental health care.

"This will be an electronic front door to mental health care as well as a library and a source of support," said Mike Hogan, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health who will be at today's Web site unveiling in Lorain County. "It's not meant to be more than that. It's not treatment."

The Mental Health Network of Care's search engine will steer those reluctant to seek help because of the stigma associated with mental ill nesses to local support groups, care providers, even legislators sponsoring mental health bills.

Over 4,000 mental health topics including employment, housing and recent studies is available Throughout the nation, county health and social service agencies are investing in Web sites tailored for domestic violence and youths at risk.

Last July, President Bush's New Freedom Commission Report on the state of America's mental health said technology could play a key role in improving access. Hogan chaired the commission. The Lorain County Board of Mental Health saw the potential benefits of technology, initiated contact with a Web developer and was eventually selected to pilot the program. The state awarded the county a $40,000 grant to cover the startup costs of the local Web site. The yearly costs will now be paid for by the county.

"This opens the door for people who don't know where to turn," said Hogan. And there are many in need. In any given year, 5 to 7 percent of adults have a serious mental illness and 5 to 9 percent of children have a serious emotional disturbance, which amounts to millions, according to the commission report.

The networks are also being launched in Clermont County later this week and Stark County in April.

People with mental health concerns may struggle for over a decade before finding the right help, said Hogan. "Even if something like this cuts that time in half, it will save lives," he said.

Bob MacIntyre, of Columbia Township, said his own journey back from major depression could well have been shortened with easily accessible information.

"There is a crying need for this because if any piece of the recovery picture is missing, other parts of it may be less effective," said MacIntyre, a member of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health.