BOISE -- Emotional frustrations run deep among some of the most vulnerable members of our society and their families.

Those living with mental illness and developmental disabilities say the state simply isn't doing enough to provide the services they need.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare tells KTVB major changes are coming to transform the current, struggling system. But many we talked to are still skeptical.


Bryton is eight years old and has been diagnosed with severe autism.

His 6-year-old brother Ryder also suffers from autism.

Their parents say they simply don't get the care they need for their developmental disabilities.

This is real, says their mother, Tanya Samuelson. We really need help.

Samuelson says help is not just needed for not just her young boys, but her older adult son as well. He is a 22-year-old who was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

Samuelson says she sees firsthand that the lack of resources in Idaho stretches across every age group.

She says without the care he needs, her older son can't keep a job, has ended up in jail, and often turns to alcohol.

He self medicates, a lot of them do, when they don't get help, says Samuelson.

Samuelson tells us she's most disappointed in the lack of day to day, coordinated services for everyone involved.

Family services, something for me, something for us, something for our family, says Samuelson.


Service Coordinator Heidi Knittel says she sees cases like Samuelson's every day.

Knittel works at Unbefuddled, a community organization that helps families connect with services.

She's also seen how the lack of resources can turn frightening for the whole community.

One of her clients drew disturbing pictures a week after the Newtown shooting.

This seven-year-old boy had drawn two pictures which he was blowing the brains out of his counselor and his teacher, says Knittel.

She says that child is absolutely not getting the care he needs. Knittel says the help for both children and adults simply isn't available.

They are desperate and hopeless, and they don't know where to go, says Knittel.

She tells us some community clinics have recently closed, others are full.

She says sadly some adults end up on the street, or in a homeless shelter, and it usually takes a crisis to get a patient of any age any real help.

What these families are often told is that if your child is acting up, call police, have police come in and file a report, so you can create a paper trail so that maybe later you can get services, says Knittel.

Dr. Charlie Novak, a psychiatrist at Intermountain Hospital, agrees.

The only way to access care if you have a serious persistent mental illness is to end up in an ER, hospital, jail, or prison, says Novak.

Dr. Novak says it will take a partnership of both state funds and private, community services to fix the issue.

He adds that it's frustrating cycle, because the more the state cuts preventative, day to day care, the more it ends up costing down the road, when it's too late.

The reality is it's alive and a big problem, and just from taxpayers perspective, it's cost us a lot of money, says Novak.


The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare tells us the cuts began in 2009, when the time a patient was allowed with a counselor, called psychosocial rehabilitation or PSR, was cut from 20 hours a week down to 10.

Then, in 2010, House Bill 701 reduced that time down to five hours.

The next year, House Bill 260 cut PSR again to four hours, as part of a $115 million decrease in state and federal funds.

We did have cuts in Medicaid, says Tom Shanahan with the department of health and welfare. We did have cuts in our own behavioral health program in the last four years, and it has impacted our ability, so it is a system that's struggling.

He says the cuts and capped services hit the mental health providers the most and admits the behavioral health program as a whole doesn't always cover all the needs.

It's a very fragmented system right now, and we have been trying for years, probably 10 years, to transform the system, says Shanahan.


But Shanahan says he is optimistic about the future of the system. He tells us major change is coming in three ways.

First, a new managed care system set to begin in July of this year.

Also, he says the Affordable Care Act's health care insurance exchange will help increase the insurance coverage for mental illnesses.

And, he says a concept known as transformation is in the works. Shanahan says under that idea, everyone would have access to clinical services through their communities.

Shanahan says their department has not received any new funding, but has been working on these changes for years, and says they happen to be coming together at the right time.

We're going to have a system that is not as fragmented as it was, and there is not going to be as many gaps, says Shanahan.

As for Samuelson and her boys, she's not convinced the changes will help.

She says she's still unsure of the system that let her family down when they moved to Idaho.

I'm disappointed, says Samuelson. This is my home state, and if I could go back and not have moved here, I would I would take my life back before here in a heartbeat.

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