Mental Health, Preventive Care, And The Debate Over Medicaid Expansion In Idaho

Apr 2, 2013

When the 2013 legislative session wraps up, a big policy question will remain: Will the state make Medicaid available to a greater number of Idaho’s poor? The federal health care law encourages that move. It’s a debate that involves potential costs and savings, along with patient well-being. And it turns quickly to chronic conditions, like mental illness.

Mitch Ponting is grateful he's doing well, and building relationships with his family.
Credit Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Mitchell Ponting is 48 years old with neatly trimmed gray hair and a quick smile. When he was paroled from prison last summer after serving two years on drug charges, he faced an immediate problem.

“I was released in July, and I was on medication in prison,” he explains. “And I was released with a two-week supply.”

Ponting has degenerative disk disease and arthritis, and takes prescription narcotics for the pain. Two other prescriptions help him manage otherwise debilitating depression.  “Without my mental health meds, I’m a wreck,” he tells me.

He becomes reclusive, he says, and unable to hold normal conversations. But medication gives him a different relationship with his disease.

“It’s always there, but I have the ability to – I don’t want to say sidestep it,” he says, thinking aloud. “I have the ability to keep it down.”

Not long after he was released from prison, Ponting found his way to a small adult behavioral health clinic in Boise run by Easter Seals-Goodwill. They provide low-cost mental health and substance abuse treatment, and they specialize in serving people on felony probation and parole. DeLanie Valentine directs the clinic

“We have so many people that come in with chronic illnesses,” she says. “They have never been to a doctor.” Click here to continue reading and to hear the audio version...