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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Where's The Right When We Have A Real Crisis?

by capper

I waited for two days to see if anyone would post about the article about the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division (commonly known as the Mental Health Complex), but was disappointed that not one person had anything to say about it. The article reported about an increase in assaults by the mentally ill patients at the mental health complex, both on staff and on other patients.

I thought that at least the commentators on the right side of the blogosphere would have something to say. Maybe the headline wasn't startling enough, or maybe they read only the first few paragraphs and thought, "Mmph, serves those money-grubbing, overpaid, lazy county workers right!" Or it could be that the article doesn't deliver the full impact of the situation.

For the uninitiated, providing mental health care is expensive, running several hundreds of dollars per day. In the 1990s, the insurance companies were allowed to change how they handles mental health costs, making it more like the medical model. Say that a person is diagnosed with depression, they might be allowed five days of care, a schizophrenic might get a whole week. This is barely enough time to make a preliminary assessment and diagnosis, and start a treatment plan. It is not enough time to ensure the plan would work, or get the person stable enough to be discharged safely. These two factors caused a lot of psychiatric hospitals to close and regular hospitals to end or greatly diminish their commitment to mental health patients.

The overflow from these lost beds went by default to the mental health complex. But instead of increasing funding and preparing for this, the budget was slashed annually, entire wards were closed, and mental health professionals were laid off.

Now we are seeing the results of the budget slashing. There was a series of articles literally spanning months, discussing how the mentally ill in Milwaukee County are being placed in squalid, filthy conditions and sometimes left to die. This finally led the City and the County of Milwaukee to start looking at providing decent housing and services for these people.

In the article about the complex, it points out that patients are more seriously ill and staying for shorter lengths of time. That means that unstable, potentially violent people are being forced out of the complex to make room for even more unstable and violent people. These unstable, potentially people are going back into the community until they create a disturbance, hurt themselves, and/or hurt someone else. This makes everyone unsafe.

But instead of hearing cries about a crisis and demanding action from those responsible, there is nothing. When there was a perceived crisis in the spring, regarding crime, especially murder, there was plenty of hullabaloo about the mayor and the police chief, demands for action, and ridicule of anyone who would disagree. Now, with a real crisis, nothing.

I guess, in some people's eyes, it's only a crisis if you can blame a democrat.

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