Governor Gordon hosts second Mental Health Summit

Last year Governor Mark Gordon held his first Mental Health Summit. Tuesday he held a second summit.
Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 12:34 PM CDT
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Last year Governor Mark Gordon held his first Mental Health Summit. Tuesday he held a second summit, which also included members of Wyoming’s legislative and judicial branches.

Why is this such an important issue for the state? And why is it such an important issue for the governor, as well?

Hundreds were in attendance at the Nicolaysen Art Museum for the Mental Health Summit. The focus of the morning session was on what state government can do to solve the problem, and how to do it. On the panel, along with Governor Mark Gordon, were two state congressmen and the chief justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court. Governor Gordon explains why mental health is such an important issue for him, personally.

“I spoke about kids that were in my kid’s classes in school. And the fact that I think we failed them. A really bright young man, sixth grade, took his own life. That’s just unacceptable. In the state that I grew up in, I always knew... When I was in town, or when I was out at the ranch... That there were people that were pulling for me. And we need to rediscover that kind of community awareness.”

State Senator Fred Baldwin, who is also a physician, says there’s a bigger tie between physical health and mental health, than what people might realize.

“Maybe it’s back pain. Maybe it’s chest pain. Maybe it’s a rash. Could be a number of things. And when you really get down to it, the underlying cause is actually a mental health issue. Depression being the prime example.”

Senator Baldwin is helping lead a movement at the Capitol to raise awareness of mental health issues, and pass bills related to it. Two of which he hopes will attract more counselors to the state. “The psychological compacts... The so-called psych pact... And the counselor compact. Which enable practitioners from Wyoming to practice in other states; practitioners from other states to practice in Wyoming. Without having to pay that additional fee for licensing, for all those other things you have to do.”

Wyoming ranks first in the U.S. for suicide deaths, per capita. And suicide is the second leading cause of death in Wyoming for ages 18-44. Which is why governor Gordon believes time is of the essence. “What are we going to do about early intervention. What are we going to do about meeting people where their needs are. What’s exciting to me, is that we really are talking about it holistically now for the first time.”