Johnson County mental health officials want more funding for suicide prevention

February 23, 2018 - 5:40 am

Some mental health experts call it a secret epidemic, a high suicide rate in Kansas, with an even higher rate focused on Johnson County.

More than 400 people took their own lives in Kansas in 2013, and more than a fifth of those deaths occurred in Johnson County. 

"Right now in Johnson County we see an ever-increasing suicide rate," said Tim DeWeese, director of the county's mental health services. 

Suicide prevention funding is not keeping up with Johnson County's growing population, which was about 580,000 in 2015. 

"Individuals that have the most severe mental illnesses, that's anywhere from three and five percent, so we're talking about 10,000 people, when we should be serving about double that," DeWeese said. 

People with mental disorders are ending up in jails and regular hospitals, where they do not get the kind of treatment they need.

According to the Centers for Disease Control the state of Kansas had the nation's 11th-highest suicide rate in 2014.

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