Joyce Plis is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Stanislaus County. She works to educate the public on how people with mental illness can lead successful lives if given appropriate treatment. She also helps people gain access to treatment. Plis’ son has schizophrenia. Produced for the Modesto Bee. Photography, audio and production by Lauren M. Whaley/CHCF Center for Health Reporting.
In recent years, a faltering local economy has combined with ongoing state and county budget cuts to severely reduce Stanislaus County’s ability to treat adults with mental illnesses – a trend reflected around California. In four years, the county department of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, which oversees mental health services, has lost more than 200 positions – some 37 percent of its staff. In 2003-4, the department was able to serve nearly 13,000 county residents. Today, that number has dropped closer to 9,000, while the need almost certainly has grown.