Many of you have watched the story KCTV5 is following regarding mental health care in Kansas and Missouri that features Marie and myself telling Emma’s story as best we can. We appreciated Joe Chiodo’s efforts with us and his desire to seek answers. Yet, I do want to be clear, blame is not the answer. Solutions are.

Emma’s Story

Joe Chiodo’s interview with Governor Kelly

Interview with Stormont Vail Behaviorial Health Services Supervisor

Blame doesn’t change the past. At times, it can change the future. Mostly it keeps us in the broken loop of the present.

Solutions. Answers. A way forward. In Emma’s case, it is too late. For someone you love, we may be just in time. In my life, I choose to seek the good that can come from Emma’s story. The older I get the more I realize that for most of us CHOICE is the most precious commodity we own here on Earth.

  • The choice to struggle…or give up.
  • The choice to be positive…or destructive.
  • The choice to learn…or remain in darkness.

While, like you, I cannot control my first thought I can choose my subsequent thoughts. And therein lies the difference between a mentally health person and many who suffer from mental illness. Think about how many disorders include or circle around anxiety and/or the general lack of control of how to think past the first thought that pops into your head.

To be sure, not every mental illness is anxiety based just as everyone who experiences momentary anxiety is not doomed for mental illness. I make no such claim. And anyone who reads here knows I have no such qualifications…beyond my own personal experiences of my life, Emma’s life and the dozens and dozens of lives I come in to contact with each year who suffer from some sort of , and I say this a non-professional, anxiety based thought process.

Is medicine the answer? Maybe, for some. Is psychology the answer? Maybe, for some. Is a better childhood or family support system or community awareness the answer? Maybe for some.

All I do know is that we as a society can serve our fellow members better. When the NIMH recommends 40 beds per 1,000 people and Kansas comes in at 15.5 beds, well, that’s atrociously negligent. Once we are aware, once we as a society determine it is better to treat our mentally unwell like our physically unwell, we must have the resources to do so.

For a guy like me, the path forward is much easier than the economics forward. Where does the money come from? Taxes? Higher medical rates? Private funding? A combination of all?

If I had the answer I’d run for Governor myself. I do know this, we as a society are already paying for it. I’m an employer here in Kansas. I’ve seen mental health issues cause my employees production. Without great production the employee or contractor limits their value to the company or the people they serve and therefore future opportunities are not equal as to what would be available if they were healthy and fully able to perform. This is just one small example.

I watch the news. How many of these headline grabbing stories have a mental illness at their core? Now, I’m not saying that a mass murderer should be off without consequences. I am asking does it really matter to the slain that their killer will now do jail time? Evil exists, to be sure. But sometimes, it is a mentally unstable person that couldn’t be helped by their families or law enforcement because of our current laws, cultural norms and lack of professional help in the field of mental health care. Especially here in Kansas.

So I ask you; how much does all that cost? For some, everything; their lives.

Blame has always been with us. Heck, the earliest recorded session of blame was Adam blaming Eve, and then Eve blaming the serpent. (Genesis 3:11 – 13) Since then, blame transference has very much been a part of the human experience. I guess it is just easier than taking responsibility for our own actions, our own choices.

While I miss Emma deeply, I want her story to bring awareness and change. The Puppy Parade we host in her name and telling this story is both cathartic and, at the same time, painful. Sitting with KCTV5 and not knowing how the story will be told or edited is also painful for this control freak. Still, Marie and I give ourselves up, our privacy up, so that one or more can hear and learn and choose differently. And maybe one turns to two, and two to four, and so on.

Governor Kelly, if I can assist with Kansas becoming a beacon of care for mental health, I stand ready to help.