Friday, March 27, 2009

Mentally ill a threat in nursing homes (Soap Box Alert)

I've thought of many reasons to increase funding for those with mental illness, but I hadn't thought of this one:

CHICAGO — Ivory Jackson had Alzheimer's, but that wasn't what killed him. At 77, he was smashed in the face with a clock radio as he lay in his nursing home bed.

Jackson's roommate — a mentally ill man nearly 30 years younger — was arrested and charged with the killing. Police found him sitting next to the nurse's station, blood on his hands, clothes and shoes. Inside their room, the ceiling was spattered with blood.

"Why didn't they do what they needed to do to protect my dad?" wondered Jackson's stepson, Russell Smith.

Over the past several years, nursing homes have become dumping grounds for young and middle-age people with mental illness, according to Associated Press interviews and an analysis of data from all 50 states. And that has proved a prescription for violence, as Jackson's case and others across the country illustrate.

Younger, stronger residents with schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder are living beside frail senior citizens, and sometimes taking their rage out on them.

"Sadly, we're seeing the tragic results of the failure of federal and state governments to provide appropriate treatment and housing for those with mental illnesses and to provide a safe environment for the frail elderly," said Janet Wells, director of public policy for the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.

read the whole story here.

I honestly believe the argument that states that we need to do away with state hospitals and long term involuntary treatment is fallacious. You have the convergence of two ideological platforms - the conservatives who do not like public spending of social programs and the ultra liberalists who believe that all treatment should be voluntary and at the home, then you have the Szaszists who believe that mental illness is a fallacy. Each of these groups are outspoken to the legislature. However, my informal poll suggests the majority of us believe in something totally different, we're just not willing to pay for it.

In a perfect world, our communities would be free from drugs, have plenty of compassionate citizens willing to care for and fund treatment in the community, families would be able to care for and supervise their loved ones 24 / 7, patients would not have side effects and would always take their medication as ordered. Heck, while we're dreaming, we might as well wish for a cure!

But we don't live in a perfect world and, if you don't want your grandmother in the same placement as the 40 year old with schizophrenia, then be willing to pay for it! You've probably heard the saying, "As one door shuts, another opens;" if you shut the doors to the placements then you open the bars to the jail cells.

Some argue that we have become more humane by doing away with the old style insane asylums. I argue we've replaced them with jails and prisons. Shock treatments? Now we have tazers executed by mere H. S. graduates and shock belts. Gassing? Now the same use pepper spray. Straight Jackets? Now we have restraint chairs. Cold Wet Sheet Packs? Now we just take their clothes off and give them concrete to lay on. This is therapeutic treatment in the jails that you and I pay $100+ a day for these hardened criminals that commit the offenses of criminal trespass, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct.

Jail is not free, it is costly to the taxpayers. To house someone with mental illness costs anywhere from $80 - $140 / day.

Wouldn't it make much more sense to pay much less to house in an assisted living facility, group home, consumer ran group home, or an adult foster care? Why not be proactive rather than reactive. If you agree, let your legislators know. NOW is the time. We only have about 70 days, give or take, for the budgets to be determined. Tell them to fund mental health, re-entry bills, and mh parity bills.

1 comment:

BJ said...

I couldn't agree more. For years we have seen persons with mental illness go from hospital settings to homeless, to jail, then prison, then to a nursing home. None of the above provide for the long term effective treatment which leads to successful independent lifestyles for persons with a persistent and severe mental illness. Having a mental illness shouldn't be a sentence to "less than". Long term care and supportive housing shouldn't be a luxury, it is common sense!