COMMENT By Bob Weaver

West Virginia's mental health services are reaching a low.

Mental health advocates blame lack of funding, leading to access problems and decreased services.

The state of mental health services in West Virginia is now in a crisis mode, declared advocacy groups at a news conference last week in Charleston.

The suicide rate for young adults grew by 85 percent between 1999 and 2004.

The number of mental hygiene petitions for involuntary commitments saw a 60 percent increase from 2000 to 2006.

The drug overdose rates jumped by 550 percent between 1999 and 2004.

The number of homeless people with mental illness grew by more than 300 percent from 2001 to 2004.

Commitments to state hospitals grew by 219 percent from 2001 to 2005.

Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington was cited for overcrowding and is now forced to add more beds.

We have a suggestion for the West Virginia legislature, a solution to the problem.

Providing he hasn't moved on to a higher calling, put Northwood Mental Health CEO Pete Radakovich of Wheeling in charge of the entire system.

Much like Reverend Ike, Radakovich has dared to go where few mental health providers have gone before.

Both Ike and Radakovich have had the nerve to preach personal prosperity, in Radakovich's case, mostly using taxpayer money.

Members of Northwood's mental health board in Wheeling have lauded Radakovich for jerking the center from the jaws of economic death.

Radakovich has lauded himself with a salary of $470,000, mostly paid by Medicaid dollars.

The CEO was so proud of his management accomplishments, he ventured to hire a public relations firm to promote his management accomplishments, likely using taxpayer funds.

Magazine ads praising his accomplishments are modeled after corporate ads, staunchly picturing Radakovich and his team's leadership accomplishments.

Radakovich touted himself as a "savior figure" on a Northwood web site, indicating if mental health can't help clients, Jesus will.

Hopefully, Jesus will be available if clients needing mental health services don't have money or a Medicaid card.

In a web-section called "Why Northwood is a world-class organization," Radakovich delivers a personal message, sounding much like Rev. Ike.

"Most importantly, this web site honors the Lord, who made it all possible. Praise and glory to you Lord." he said.

The web site had a depiction of Jesus being nailed to the cross and a photograph of Radakovich wearing a black shirt and gold cross necklace.

"Jesus wouldn't take high executive salaries from an operation that depends on taxpayer funds, and it's not something the state or federal government should allow anyone else to do either," said a Charleston newspaper editorial.

All that aside, a savior for the system is needed, and the only person with a really good record is Radakovich, according to Radakovich.

We suggest getting him to Charleston as soon as possible, doubling his salary and getting him on task.