The director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare points to a startling statistic as people's exhibit No. 1 that the recession is far from over: One in five Idahoans receive welfare benefits—almost twice as many as 10 years ago.
To date, nearly 321,700 Idahoans receive assistance through food stamps, Medicaid or child care.
This morning's Twin Falls Times-News reports that Health and Welfare director Dick Armstrong told members of the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that his department needs a 1.6 percent budget increase for Fiscal Year 2015.
Additionally, Armstrong said he needs approximately $4.6 million to establish three behavioral health crisis centers to alleviate the stress on law enforcement and jails, where many mental patients may currently be held. The behavioral health centers would be located in Boise, Coeur d'Alene and Idaho Falls, and would provide 24-hour temporary holding facilities for individuals experiencing mental-health and substance-abuse episodes.
"But the goal is not to let them get into a crisis situation in the first place," he told JFAC. "Over the long run, we want to build a peer support system, people who can stay in contact with these individuals.