Here’s an article from Chron: Texas AP News that I just had to post here. As a psychiatric nurse currently working in the state of Texas, this article was of some interest to me personally and professionally. Texas is not known for its generosity in dealing with mentally ill people; so it seems that the current budget crisis is a perfect opportunity for the Texas government to squeeze even more out of this pocket–maybe even to rip this pocket out of the budget totally.
The current trend to “criminalize” the mentally ill is not okay. Police do not have the time or the skills to deal with psychotic and delusional persons. The police are trained to prevent crimes and not to assess a persons mental status. My fear is that with police having to deal more and more with the mentally ill, there will be more accidental shootings or even more intended shootings. Suicide-by-cop seems to be an acceptable method of committing suicide in the population I treat.
Please read this article and let me know your thoughts on this topic. I am frightened for my patients and for the state of mental health care in my state.
By SOMMER INGRAM
© 2011 The Associated Press
March 13, 2011, 10:27AM
AUSTIN, Texas — In a state that offers meager funding for mental health, law enforcement officers across Texas have performed the duties of psychologists and social workers — roles they have neither the training nor the manpower to bear.
The Texas Legislature, which has never been generous to mental health clinics, has further withered services under the strain of a strapped state budget, and as a result, police and sheriff’s departments say the number of mental health calls they respond to is snowballing.
And thanks to a new $27 billion budget crisis, it may only get worse.
Initial proposals would cut services provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services by 20 percent, making it more likely for mentally ill Texans to end up in emergency rooms, having mental breakdowns or being thrown behind bars.
“We’re about to see huge setbacks. I think we’re going to get slaughtered,” said Leon Evans, chief executive of Bexar County Mental Health Care services. “We’ve been developing some tools so people don’t have to go to the hospital and prison. But I think all these programs that are very effective, that help to reclaim lives, are at risk.”
Experts say slashing mental health funding will have a painful and resounding effect across Texas when the mentally ill can’t access the treatment and medication they need to function.
“What’s happening is the criminalization of mental illness,” said Polly Hughes, public policy chair of National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It shifts the responsibility of taking care of mental illness to the counties and officers who are already stretched thin.”
Community services such as clinics, crisis hotlines and outpatient treatment are critical to keeping the mentally ill out of state institutions and jail.
The shortage of mental hospital beds means officers often have to drive a mentally ill person hundreds of miles to the next open bed.
“What we’re facing in 2011 are law enforcement officers as de facto social workers and jails becoming asylums,” Houston Senior Police Officer Frank Webb said. “Police officers are responding to more mental illness than social workers.”
Jails are packed with mentally ill Texans who most often haven’t committed a violent crime, but cycle endlessly through the system for minor violations, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Texans with a serious mental illness are eight times more likely to be incarcerated in jails than treated in hospitals, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. A community health care program costs $12 per day to care for a patient, compared to $137 per day to incarcerate them, the group said.
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said mentally ill inmates cost the county the most money, with more than a third of the county jail’s 6,000 inmates requiring mental health services. The cost of housing and providing care for these inmates was nearly $19 million in 2010.
As the seventh largest in the country, the jail is already dealing with limited resources and overflowing cells.
“If community mental health services don’t get the money they need, we’re going to end up being mental health institutions. In fact, we’re already there,” Valdez said. “If we start overloading the system, we’re not going to have what we need to take care of them.”
The stream of people into jail is continuous because it’s easier to get arrested than get treatment, Webb said.
Mental health cases are becoming so prevalent that departments across the state and nation have made …[read the rest of this article here]
- More mentally ill ending up in jail (thegazette.com)
- A law you need to know about (timesunion.com)
- How to help people with a mental illness (thecrazyrambler.wordpress.com)
- Can you own a gun if mentally ill in alabama (wiki.answers.com)
- Developing Mental Illnesses (macjrpublishing.wordpress.com)
- Disclose or not? The catch 22 of mental illness stigma (psychologytoday.com)
- Budget Jail Officials: Mental Health Cuts Hurt Everyone (skwillms.wordpress.com)
- Helping a Loved One Get Better Mental Health Care (everydayhealth.com)
- Schizophrenia and Legal Issues (everydayhealth.com)