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Mental Health Care On Trial

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by anthony, Nov 17, 2006.

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  1. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Can the court system save the mental health system? Two recent judicial rulings in Michigan and Florida, and a pending trial in California, may be signposts in the quest to reform mental health care.

    Prisons have become the de facto mental health care system as nearly a third of America’s psychiatric hospital beds have been closed since 1995. Patients can’t get care and go untreated, become homeless, self-medicate, and turn to garbage bins and petty crimes to survive. Many of those crimes, as well as more serious matters involving psychosis and murder, might be prevented with adequate health care including, when necessary, hospital stays that require more time than what insurance companies will pay for. Instead of helping develop wellness, support and episode relapse prevention for patients, people end up in prison.

    In Florida, prisoners judged incompetent to stand trial due to psychosis or other psychiatric problem must be transferred to a hospital within 15 days, but instead they languish - and die - crammed into prisons without adequate treatment. Judges are now threatening to fine the state $1000 per day per prisoner if the state fails to comply with the law. Meanwhile, Michigan’s corrections department has been ordered to hire more mental health staff as part of a class action lawsuit which includes the horrifying death of Timothy Souders and others.

    In Los Angeles, patients are driven from hospitals to Skid Row, dumped into the streets wearing hospital gowns, psychotic and left to fend for themselves bleary with medications. Criminal and civil charges against a chain of LA hospitals were laid this week, in the first-ever case of prosecution for patient dumping.

    Will Florida comply and [re]open hundreds of beds to accommodate those suffering and dying while waiting for treatment? Will Michigan’s prisons hire more psychiatrists and train its officers to prevent torturous deaths? Will an HMO be held accountable for patient-dumping and withholding care that could prevent people from entering the criminal justice system in the first place?

    Judges are guardians of ethics and order, and cannot tolerate inhumane practices toward vulnerable members of society. They are important in the struggle to improve mental health care system, and these cases are hopeful signs of justice.

    Source: Psych Central
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