Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis

  • I'm going to detour from the focus of this month's news articles by detailing an urgent need in America to address our shameful and inadequate if not non-existent mental healthcare.


    Everyone living in America should be outraged that Ebony Wilkerson had bail set at $1.2M because she drove her 3 kids into the surf.  She was automatically denied the mental health treatment that might have gotten her well enough to realize what was going on.


    Ebony Wilkerson is not a criminal.  She was turned away from psychiatric treatment and left out on the streets to have her condition deteriorate.  I have only compassion for her.

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    I'm old enough to remember Andrea Yates drowning her children because she didn't get treatment either.  The lack of hospital beds and the lack of treatment has been going on since the 1990s and it has only gotten worse.


    Everyone in America should be outraged at our country's refusal to take action on the single greatest crisis in our great land: the failure to give psychiatric treatment to people who only suffer brain damage and permanent disability because of untreated illness.


    It's NOT okay that upwards of $70Billion or more is spent each year on the costs of untreated mental illness.  It's NOT okay that the untold cost in wasted lives is far greater on a human not economic scale.


    It's also NOT okay that people with untreated mental illnesses become violent.  To truly halt the stigma, we need to stop the violence.  Stigma has increased because the violence has increased.  It's not politically correct to link people diagnosed with schizophrenia as being violent.  Yet the reality is people with schizophrenia that go untreated have a higher risk of violence.


    The sheriff refused to Baker Act Ebony Wilkerson.  Every day in cities and towns across America people who need treatment are turned away and left to their own devices out on the streets.  They go on to commit crimes against other people or to kill themselves.


    Compassion is the response required.  Not criminalization.  Judge not lest you be judged as the Bible quotes.


    There is a solution.  It's the clarion call of progress and you can be part of the solution.  It might not totally change things yet it will have a positive effect where right now the mental health system is in shambles.


    Rep. Tim Murphy sponsored and 42 other congresspersons co-sponsored the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis bill HR 3717.  Think about this: an elected official did the right thing.


     Now: I don't align myself with any political party.  I detest the liberals as much as I detest the conservatives.  Yet I'm willing to endorse any elected official that has a brain.  Tim Murphy is a Republican and that doesn't matter.  If more Republicans had the balls to sponsor a bill like HR 3717 they might convert people to their party.


    This isn't about politics though.  It's about how every American has the chance to speak out against the injustice of our great country's non-existent mental healthcare treatment.  It's about how we can turn the tide and help those who need treatment get the right treatment right away.  It's about time and right now we have the ability to effect change.


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    You can read on the text of HR 3717 that I link to here.  It's more detailed than the summary suggests yet you can read only the summary if you want to.  Then go on to send your congressperson a letter to act to vote HR 3717 into law.  Go on to tell your Senators to act on their version of the bill.


    Among its stipulations, it gives family members who are caregivers the right to be given information about their loved ones if that person is in a crisis and needs to get immediate help.  It authorizes grants for AOT (assertive outpatient treatment).  It bars government-funded Protection & Advocacy agencies from counseling individuals to refuse treatment.  It Amends both SSA titles XIX and XVIII (Medicare) to cover prescription drugs used to treat mental health disorders.


    HR 3717 is the start of the needed change in America.  We also need to lobby our elected officials to create more hospital beds so that those who need to be hospitalized do have a place to get treatment.  The lack of beds might be the single-most detrimental reason mental healthcare is non-existent in America.


    I do not take lightly the position to advocate for HR 3717.  The time has come to take action.


    I have my own ideas as to why bail was set at $1.2M as well.  I have my own idea that I wouldn't want to be a person with a mental illness and have to live in Florida where psychiatric treatment consists of solitary confinement in a jail.


    The regressive non-treatment of people with mental illnesses in America has to end now.  It's America's great shame. 


    I'm not proud that I got better because I received immediate treatment.  How can I be proud when others suffer brain damage because they don't get treatment?


    My story should be the rule not the exception.  I will go to my grave championing early if not immediate treatment with medication and therapy when someone exhibits psychotic symptoms.


    It's truly a case where "silence=shame."


    I urge you to research HR 3717 and see if it makes sense to you to lobby your congressperson to vote the bill into law.


    I will return next week with my regular news articles.

Published On: March 09, 2014