New Mental Hospital Beds Coming October 24, 2013Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: Healthcare, Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospitals
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Finally, things are looking up here in Washington State. Currently, we are 50th out of 50 in terms of mental hospital beds per capita for the State. Two new mental hospitals are scheduled to be online within the next few years. A 68 bed facility at Fairfax Hospital, where I was involuntarily committed, broke ground in May of this year. A 75 bed mental hospital, complete with a 25 bed facility for children, is seeking approval for a location in Smokey Point near Marysville in Snohomish County. Currently, Swedish Hospital in Edmonds, with 23 beds, is the only mental hospital facility in the 733,000 person county. And it doesn’t handle children.
Bringing these two hospitals online should help reduce or end the practice of “boarding”. “Boarding” is the act of keeping people housed in regular hospitals while waiting for a bed in a mental hospital to open up. This is common in King and Snohomish County because there are too few beds. In King County right now, two thirds of all detentions for involuntary commitment end up being “boarded”- sometimes for days, while waiting for a hospital bed to be freed up.
I had my own experience with “boarding” when I was involuntarily committed five years ago. During my psychotic break with reality, I thought I was a mermaid named Pangaea. Life was good in the bubble universe I was in. My friends included Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and the Dalai Lama among others. Bill and Melinda provided me with all the money I needed (in my fantasy world), and everyone hung on my every word, telling me how gorgeous I was. And I had ESP. This went on for months.
Then things turned nasty. Zombies showed up, with the intent of capturing me. It was at that point that I remembered something I learned in grade school: when your environment isn’t safe, head to a police station or hospital. So I convinced my husband to drive me to a hospital by telling him I was hearing voices. Except I didn’t mean it in the traditional way, but I knew he wouldn’t understand that I had ESP. Feeling my reality dissolving around me, I wanted my husband to take me to the nearest trauma center, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but my husband chose Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland instead.
Once we arrived, my friends told me via ESP that the hospital was a trap, and I changed my mind about wanting to be there. But I had made an error in judgment by telling my unsuspecting husband that I was hearing voices in an attempt to get him to take me to the hospital. With that confession on his mind, he wasn’t about to let me return home.
Once I displayed my fins to people in the waiting room (I could feel the flap of skin between my toes, since as a mermaid I had fins) and took off my clothes in the emergency room, they locked me in a room for hours as they waited for an overworked County Designated Mental Health Professional to examine me to determine whether to involuntarily commit me. That was in the late afternoon. After her examination, she determined that I should be committed (but I didn’t know that). That’s where the “boarding” came in. She finished her evaluation at around 4 pm, deciding to commit me. But where? At that point, she started looking for a bed at a mental hospital. But there weren’t many choices, and they were all full.
Not knowing what was going on, I sat in that locked room, for hours. Finally, around midnight, they showed up with a four point restraint board and expected me to jump on and get buckled in. I refused, so they grabbed me by the throat and pinned me down and buckled me in, then came at me with a syringe and plunged it into my thigh. I passed out, coming to in a mental hospital.
With new hospital beds on the way, and with some money (thanks to a new tax that goes towards funding for mental illness) to get training for emergency room personnel, the experience I had should become a dim memory. At least that’s what I hope.
Mental Health and Competency Restoration in Washington January 29, 2013Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital.
Tags: Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospitals
Imagine having a mental health crisis and finding yourself in a county jail, with little or no mental health treatment, isolated with no direct human contact, in a cell with no toilet or furniture for 23-24 hours a day, wearing only a smock, as days become weeks, then months, all while the symptoms of your mental illness get worse.
According to a report, released today by Disability Rights Washington (DRW), this is a recurring problem in local jails across Washington State. Over the last few years, people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries have had to wait for several weeks or even months to get an evaluation to see whether or not they are competent to stand trial. If they are found incompetent to stand trial, they often wait additional weeks or months to get services at the state hospital where there is mental health treatment designed to restore competency to stand trial. While they wait in jail, they are held with little or no mental or behavioral health treatment, often under severe punitive conditions for disability-related behavior. This includes being held in isolation, where their mental health often deteriorates.
Individuals may be held for low-level infractions, like trespassing or vagrancy, often because mental health services were unavailable. “It is unacceptable that people end up in jail facing criminal charges simply because they cannot obtain the mental health services they need in the community. We are turning these individuals into prisoners when they should be patients,” said Emily Cooper, attorney with DRW.
“Jail is the worst possible place for people struggling with serious mental illness. As a society, we need to stop the pattern of unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness,” said Gordon Bopp, President of the Washington Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). “They are not criminals. Nobody chooses to have a mental illness, and therefore nobody should be jailed for having one. Instead, they should be offered treatment,” Bopp said.
Along with sheriffs, mental health providers, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and disability advocates, DRW has worked on this issue through multiple legislative sessions. Last year, the Legislature adopted an aspirational, seven-day performance target for the completion of competency evaluations and state hospital admission for restoration services. The Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee confirmed in a report issued last month that the state hospitals are failing to meet this target, and the time people spend in jail awaiting evaluation and treatment is growing.
“The longer a person with a mental health crisis spends in jail, the more devastating and long-lasting the consequence,” said David Lord, DRW Director of Public Policy. “Eliminating the excessive time these individuals spend in deplorable jail conditions must be one of the highest priorities of the legislature,” Lord said.
From January 25, 2013 report from Disability Rights Washington “Lost and Forgotten: Conditions of Confinement While Waiting for Competency Evaluation and Restoration”
Insulin Shock Therapy December 3, 2012Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Medication, Mental Hospital, Schizophrenia.
Tags: Medication, Mental Hospitals, Schizophrenia
In a desperate attempt to find a cure for mental illness in the early part of the last century, barbaric treatments were invented. Insulin shock therapy was one such treatment.
In insulin shock therapy, a patient was put into an insulin coma six days a week for months on end in an attempt to “cure” schizophrenia by “resetting” the brain. Occasionally that seventh day was filled with electro-shock therapy. Sometimes this “treatment” went on for years.
Insulin shock therapy was started by psychiatrist Manfred Sakel in 1927 when he began to use low (sub-coma) doses of insulin to treat drug addicts and psychopaths in Berlin. Interpreting his results as successful, he got the idea of “resetting” the brains of schizophrenics using the same therapy. News of his work spread, and this treatment was picked up by mental hospitals worldwide.
After being injected by insulin, patients experienced various symptoms including flushing, pallor, perspiration, salivation, drowsiness, or restlessness before falling into a coma. Each coma lasted for up to an hour and was terminated by intravenous glucose. Seizures sometimes occurred before or during the coma, and these were viewed as positive events. Only the healthiest patients were chosen for the treatment, since it was so hard on their bodies. Broken bones were common.
For years, this “therapy” was performed on the mentally ill, including John Forbes Nash, the brilliant mathematician whose life story is told in A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar. The book goes into a little detail about his treatment.
Insulin shock therapy started to fall in disfavor when Harold Bourne, a British psychiatrist, published a paper entitled “the insulin myth” in Lancet in 1953, in which he debunked the therapy. Then, in 1957, Lancet published the results of an experiment whereby insulin shock treatment was shown to be an ineffective treatment for schizophrenia. Over the years, it slowly began to fall into disfavor, and is now thought of as barbaric.
It is relatively easy to see why insulin shock therapy was quickly adopted by the mental health community. Up to that point, there was no other treatment available. Anything that had a remote possibility of working was greeted with open arms, and the “science” behind the treatment made perfect sense. “Resetting” the brain would result in curing the illness, they reasoned.
Eventually, science caught up with insulin shock therapy, and the medical community was forced to abandon this treatment, but not before much pain and suffering occurred.
In the future, it will be interesting to see which of our current therapies are viewed as barbaric as insulin shock therapy and lobotomies are viewed today.
Here We Go Again: Reducing Mental Hospital Beds August 19, 2012Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Mental Hospital, mental illness, Schizophrenia, Uncategorized.
Tags: Delusions, Hallucinations, Mental Hospitals, mental illness, Schizophrenia
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Here we go again: more psychiatric hospital beds are disappearing in Washington State. How do I know? Not from anything in the news. It’s because I got a phone call from a 75 year old woman whose 54 year old schizophrenic son is being released from Western State Hospital. She called because she was desperate to find housing and help for her son before he is released, which will be soon. She explained that she is an old lady and can barely care for herself, much less her son, who has been at Western for many years.
At Western, he has case managers and people who make sure he takes his medication as well as living support. He never learned how to shop or care for himself because his symptoms were so severe that they required him to be permanently hospitalized. I’m guessing that even with proper medication, he isn’t symptom-free or he would have been released years ago. Even with proper medication, delusions and hearing voices is fairly common in hard-to-treat cases like his. Once out of that protective environment of the hospital, she is concerned that when he stops taking his medication, his symptoms will increase and he will become unmanageable. She is looking for housing for him that will also provide help in adjusting to life on the outside. And she doesn’t have much time.
This situation is tragic. They’re taking a man who has spent most of his life in an institution getting the help and support he needs in order to function, and throwing him outside to fend for himself. Had there been any adjustment support for him, she wouldn’t be so desperate. Programs like those he needs are overfull. He won’t be able to get into those programs for years because they’re at or over capacity right now. And with the State releasing more people like this man, more people will fall through the cracks. The State hasn’t funded stop-gap programs for people like him. There simply isn’t anywhere he can go. Who knows what will ultimately happen to this man?
Although I understand the need to balance the State budget, balancing it on the backs of the more vulnerable population is unconscionable.
Contrary to popular opinion, 99.9 percent of people housed in institutions like this aren’t dangerous when released. So we shouldn’t be afraid of him. In fact, statistically they are the ones who are more likely to be assaulted and victimized because they’re not equipped to survive outside their institution. Turning a man out who has been taken care of most of his life will not make his quality of life improve. In fact, the type of living situation that he was in had allowed him to have his “home base” at the hospital, able to freely come and go at will. The point of the hospitalization was to keep him taking his medication allowing him to live with and manage his schizophrenic symptoms. If he is left to his own devices at this late stage of his life, he will likely discontinue taking his medication, which will mean the symptoms of his illness, barely contained anyway, will return in a big way. I’m not saying he will be a danger to others. I’m just saying that hearing voices and other negative symptoms will likely return in a big way without proper medication and supervision. Clearly, his case must be particularly difficult because had he had an “easy” case, he would have been released years ago. He’s there because that’s where he needs to be.
His institutionalization is very different from involuntary commitment, so his release shouldn’t scare anyone from the standpoint of him being a threat. Far from it. He is allowed to come and go at will, but his base is always at Western State Hospital. He goes on outings and to visit his parents, but he never stays there for any length of time. He always has to return to Western so they can give him the care he needs. He hasn’t gone grocery shopping or done the dishes or any number of things we are all used to doing in order to survive. If left to his own devices without any education in performing these relatively easy tasks, he will risk his well-being to the point of being dangerous. Just turning him loose out into the world will be a hardship. His 75 year old mother won’t be much help, and because of his symptoms he can’t live with her- especially once he’s off his medication.
They say the mark of a civilization isn’t how they treat their rich. It’s how they treat their poor and vulnerable population. And from the way this gentleman is about to be treated, it’s clear that we’re not exactly the best civilization in the world.
The Law and Involuntary Commitment January 2, 2012Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospitals, mental illness
You’d think that once a bill gets passed by the House and Senate and signed by the Governor, there would be no question whether the bill goes into effect. But that’s not true.
Back on March 17, 2010, I posted a blog entry about the passage of House Bill 3076. I was excited because it would no longer required Designated Mental Health Professionals to disregard evidence given by friends and family members of people with severe mental illness in their decision of whether to involuntarily commit a person with severe mental illness. Prior to this law, the Designated Mental Health Professional could not take into account testimony by friends and family members regarding the mental state of their friend or loved one.
Senate House Bill 3076 was a major victory for people with severe mental illness because it enabled them to get much-needed help by enabling their friends or loved ones to give evidence to the Mental Health Professional doing the assessment of the person with severe mental illness to determine whether that person should be involuntarily committed.
“Chapter 280, Laws of 2010 (Second Substitute House Bill 3076) expanded in two ways the factors that Designated Mental Health Professionals and the courts may consider when determining whether to commit a person to involuntary treatment. First, the 2010 law provides that a Designated Mental Health Professional must consider all reasonably available evidence from credible witnesses when determining whether to detain a person. Credible witnesses are defined as family, landlords, neighbors, and others with significant contact and history of involvement with the person. Second, the 2010 law additionally provides that, in determining whether to detain and commit, Designated Mental Health Professionals and the courts may consider symptoms and behavior that, standing alone would not justify commitment, but that show a marked deterioration in the person’s condition and are closely associated with symptoms and behavior that led to past involuntary psychiatric hospitalization or violent acts. The 2010 law set January 1, 2012 as the effective date for both of these changes”
At the time the bill was passed, I assumed that it would become effective immediately. In fact, I assumed this whole time that it was in effect. That assumption was obviously wrong. Had I read the bill more closely, I would have known that the law wouldn’t become effective until January 1, 2011.
I made another assumption as well. I assumed that, once the law came into effect, it would not and could not be revoked. That, too, was an assumption that was wrong.
In fact, another bill, Senate Bill 5987, gutted House Bill 3076. I was shocked at this turn of events.
Basically, the summary of Senate Bill 5987 changed the effective date of the 2010 statuary changes from January 1, 2012 to January 1, 2015.
The reason for the change, said the Staff Summary of Public Testimony, is that there isn’t sufficient treatment capacity to meet current involuntary needs, let alone increased demand. Already, said the new bill, between 25 to 50 percent of all persons involuntarily committed in King County are “boarded” in facilities that are not certified to accept such patients. The legislation, it said, needs to be passed in the special session before the January 1, 2012 effective date of the original legislation. Department of Social and Health Services supports to purpose of the 2010 legislation, but lacks the resources to implement it.
Although it is frustrating that the law is now delayed another three years, the reason it was delayed makes perfect sense. It’s yet another victim of our funding crisis.
Mental Health Triage Facility June 12, 2011Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: Mental Hospitals, mental illness
I like to share good ideas in the hope that they can be successfully replicated elsewhere. This is one of the better ideas I have come across, and it just happens to be in my own county (Snohomish WA, USA):
(Reprinted from An Editorial published May 10, 2011 in The Herald, Everett WA)
The news is a constant reminder that our prisons are overcrowded, as are our emergency rooms, and that the state doesn’t have the means or infrastructure to deal with all the mentally ill people who need help.
These are monster social problems, all related, for which there is no single fix. So when a good idea emerges, it’s important to add it to the social services/law enforcement toolkit. Which is what happened when a “triage facility” bill, originating from a pioneering Snohomish County (WA) program, was signed into law at the end of April.
The law allows counties to operate triage facilities as a cost-effective alternative to jails and emergency rooms for evaluating mentally ill people and those needing substance-abuse treatment who have been arrested for non-felony crimes. In March, Snohomish County began a successful test run of such a facility at the Bailey Center in Everett (WA); it’s operated by North Sound Mental Health Administration and Compass Health.
The law allows persons to be held involuntarily at a triage center for a maximum of 12 hours, while they stabilized and evaluated for treatment and the appropriate course of action. Before, people arrested for non-felony crimes could only be held involuntarily at jails or hospital emergency rooms.
The creation of the triage center came out of the (Snohomish)County Council’s 2008 adoption of a tenth of a cent increase in the sales tax for mental health and chemical dependency services, as allowed by state law. The center is funded through a partnership with the county and North Sound Mental Health Administration.
Approximately 24 percent of the people booked into the Snohomish County Jail have mental health issues and about 6 percent have a serious and persistent mental illness, Snohomish County Human Services Director Ken Stark told Herald reporter Diana Hefley in the 2009 article, “Mentally ill often adrift in the criminal justice system.” About 70 percent of the people booked into the jail have a drug or alcohol addiction, Stark said.
Tom Sebastian, Compass Health CEO and president, said the new program is cost effective because most people in crisis are not in need of acute medical services, saving the costly trip to the emergency room. The triage center is staffed with peer counselors, mental health technicians, clinicians and nursing staff.
Snohomish County officials, mental health workers, law enforcement and legislators made this smart step happen after creatively trying to come up with way to help the mentally ill and/or drug addicts, and save money at the same time. Now the rest of the state can benefit, too.
Reluctant Gertie: Unwanted Medication February 3, 2011Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospitals, mental illness
“You have to.”
“I won’t!” said Gertie, a 350 lb white woman dressed in a hospital gown, squeezed into a chair next to a blood pressure machine at the nurse’s station.
“Please, Gertie. We’ve been through this already.”
“You have no right…”
“We have every right, Gertie,” said Marjorie, the nurse handing out medication. “We’ve already been through this. Don’t you remember what happened before when you refused to take your medication?” She shook the cup of pills at Gertie. “Go ahead and take these.”
“But I don’t like the way they make me feel.”
“I’m sorry, but the doctor said you need to take these.” She rattled the cup again. “Please.”
Gertie shook her head.
“Then I have no choice. We’ll have to give your medication to you intra-muscularly, Gertie. Just like we did before.”
Gertie continued to shake her head. “No.”
“Shall I get the other nurses?” asked a red-headed nurse in a pink tunic.
Nurse Marjorie nodded her head. “I really don’t want to do it this way, Gertie, but you’re giving me no choice.”
“Please don’t do this, Nurse,” begged Gertie.
“I’m sorry, Gertie, but I have no choice in the matter. You know that.”
“Our Father Who Art In Heaven. Please deliver me from having to take these pills,” Gertie prayed.“Please Nurse. Please. Don’t,” begged Gertie.
By this time, three other nurses had arrived
“Please God, save me from these evil nurses and their injection,” prayed Gertie as the nurses positioned themselves strategically around her.
As Nurse Marjorie prepared the syringe, I caught sight of a long needle.
“Please Gertie, don’t make me do this,” she begged.
“PLEASE GOD! DON’T LET THEM!” screamed Gertie.
All at once, the nurses grabbed Gertie, holding her down as Nurse Marjorie plunged the needle deep into Gertie’s thigh.
“NOOOOO!” screamed Gertie. “THEY’RE KILLING ME!”
The injection complete, the nurses released their grip on Gertie.
“There. All done, Gertie,” said Nurse Marjorie, her voice shaking slightly as she fastened a band-aid on the injection site.
By this time, the entire ward was shaken up, having watched this gruesome display.
“I think it’s time for a special Smoke Break,” said Nurse Marjorie. “Everyone outside!”
(Excerpt from my book, I Thought I Was A Mermaid)
Driving and Mental Illness November 22, 2010Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Medication, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospitals, mental illness
When I first began driving, I was a teenage girl living in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. My dad was Project Manager for a mid-sized construction company named Red-Samm/General, a joint venture between two fairly large construction companies. He was in charge of putting together a seven mile long sewer line through downtown Kihei. In fact, I tell my friends that if they’re staying in Kihei and flush the toilet, they can thank my dad.
In those days, my dad came home from an extremely stressful job and started “driving school for Kathy”. Things were different in those days. There was no Driver’s Ed on Maui.
After working late, he drank a few beers and then threw me the car keys, saying “Let’s go”. I climbed behind the wheel of a manual four wheel drive Jeep pickup truck, and he climbed in the passenger seat. As I learned where the gas and more to the point brakes were on that manual transmission, he sat in the passenger seat, holding on for dear life. Anyone who has ever sat in that passenger seat can tell you it’s no picnic. Around the Island we drove (it’s a 50 mile trip around the whole thing), driving on two lane roads out in the country lanes.
As I got older, I learned to drive other vehicles, eventually even owning a few of my own. Like my father, I taught my two boys how to drive (with the help of Driver’s Ed). I became comfortable (and so did they) in my role as Driver Instructor.
During my career as both an owner of a mid-sized commercial general contracting firm and project manager of commercial buildings, I learned to operate heavy construction equipment, including (bull) dozers, backhoes, dump trucks, and skidders (used for logging operations). My dad, also a project engineer but for sitework subcontractors until we went into business together, taught me how to operate all of these and more.
If there was any driving to do, I did it. I never let anyone drive if I could help it.
All that changed when I entered Fairfax Mental Hospital.
The initial dose of Lithium (900 mg) knocked me on my ass. I had major coordination problems, including doing what my husband calls the “lithium shuffle” up and down the locked down hallways of the psychiatric ward – where those of us who were involuntarily committed were housed. I lost my sense of coordination, developed the typical side effects of massive doses of lithium, and lost my desire to drive anywhere.
As the Lithium gave way to Geodon and subsequently ,when Geodon failed to work, Risperdol, I continued to be uncomfortable driving. In fact, when I got behind the wheel of the car on those rare occasions when I absolutely had to, I had trouble telling how far I was from the car in front of me. I couldn’t tell where the end of the car began. I had trouble finding the gas and more importantly the brakes. When I had to go to the local hospital where my gynecologist’s office is, I hit the gas instead of the break when I parked the car. It scared me so badly that I refused to drive myself anywhere for quite some time.
The Risperdol made things better as far as my coordination went, but still I avoided driving at all costs unless I absolutely had to. I felt much safer with someone else being behind the wheel. I had neither the focus nor physical coordination to drive and I knew it.
Recently, with the switch from Risperdol to Geodon, I finally, two and a half years after my hospitalization, began to feel that I could actually be comfortable driving. Yesterday, I am proud to say, I volunteered to drive my husband and I to the local Home Depot. It was the first time in 2 ½ years that he had been in the passenger seat with me.
Everyone around me has been very patient with me, giving me the emotional support I needed to get to this stage. But I am learning the joys of driving again, albeit slowly and cautiously. It feels good.
Eastern State Hospital (WA) and Photovoice August 18, 2010Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
Tags: Insanity, Mental Hospitals, mental illness
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At a recent NAMI Conference I attended this past weekend, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Jeff Ramirez and Ms. Elaine Alberti discuss the culture of Eastern State Hospital (http://www.dshs.wa.gov/mhsystems/esh.shtml). Housing involuntarily committed civilly committed patients as well as patients who have been acquitted of committing crimes due to the fact that they were found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity, the hospital is located in Medicine Lake, a rather isolated part of the State.
Dr. Ramirez and Ms. Alberti brought with them a wonderful Photovoice display, which showcased the work of some of the patients. Bringing the voice of hospitalized patients to the outside world, the powerpoint was a very powerful demonstration of the sometimes-forgotten humanity behind the various incarcerated individuals housed at that facility.
In an experiment designed and conducted by a clinical nurse specialist, a group of patients had the opportunity to participate in photo sessions in which they took pictures every other week. Photos were taken in and around the hospital grounds. Patients were not allowed to leave the grounds in order to take photos.
Taking four photos at each session, those photos were developed for the patients. Then, during group sessions, the photos were handed out to each patient. Patients put meaning and interpretations to their photos, sharing those meanings and interpretations with the group.
The clinical nurse specialist in charge of the program assisted the group in categorizing the narratives into four overarching themes: finding meaning, expressing anger, fighting stigma, and finding hope. Each of the photos were identified as belonging to one of those four groups. The resulting collage of photos were combined and set to music, and the end product was shown to the staff as well as others. Giving voice to the patients, it presented itself as a strategy to help reduce seclusion and restraints. Delivering a powerful message to all who saw the presentation, it resulted in a 96% reduction in restraint use.
Unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of the escape of Philip Paul, the Eastern State mental patient, included the dissolution of this program. For about 4 months after Philip Paul’s escape, patients were in total and complete lock-down, unable to even get to their treatment mall to receive their medication much less take photographs even inside the hospital grounds.
For those unfamiliar with his story, Philip Paul was incarcerated at Eastern State Hospital in eastern Washington for the death of Ruth Motteley, a woman whom Paul thought was a witch. He said that voices in his head told him to kill her, and he obeyed them. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and taken to Eastern State Hospital, where he has been held on and off since April 1987, escaping from a field trip to a fair on September 17, 2009. The history of his incarceration can be found in a September 21, 2009 article in the Spokane Review (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/sep/21/key-developments-pauls-legal-history/).
It’s unfortunate that a program with the success rate of this one has been cast aside because of the behavior of a few.
Tags: Escalating Healthcare Costs, Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospitals, mental illness
1 comment so far
$58,752. Take a good look at this number. It’s the cost for 18 days of room and board (no additional services like medication and Dr. visits are included) at Fairfax, a private mental hospital in Kirkland, Washington.*, where I was involuntarily committed back in May 2008 to mid June 2008. That breaks down to $3,900.20 per day for the first 10 days and $2,468.75 for the final 8 days.
At Eastern State Hospital (WA), a comparative public facility, the average cost per day for a stay there is $524 per day. My stay there (room and board ONLY) would have cost $9,432. At Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Washington, also a public facility, the average cost per day is $438. My cost for 18 days of room and board there would have been $7,884. Fairfax, a private hospital, charged over six times as much for the identical service. What’s wrong with this picture?
It gets even better. At these rates, if 25 patients pay $3,900 a day, Fairfax grosses $97,000 a day. If the beds stay full for a year, Fairfax grosses $35 MILLION dollars.
My family and, by extension, I, had no say in whether I would be involuntarily committed, much less the location or cost of my commitment. The State of Washington made the determination that I would be involuntarily committed. Because it was an emergency situation, forced on me, my family had no opportunity to explore the various facilities and then do a cost comparison. Even if we had known the cost, we had no choice. Fairfax was the only mental health hospital in the State with a bed. The State of Washington was forcing me to be involuntarily committed (against my will). I had to go somewhere, and Fairfax was the only place with a bed. That’s why I went there. Fairfax had me over a barrel, with no other options. They took advantage of the situation to make their stockholders a little richer.
Lest you think I was at Club Med, let me rid you of that misconception. The food was cafeteria-style, brought to us on trays stacked in a three foot high mobile metal tray rack. Built in the 1960′s, the building has not undergone any visible major or minor remodeling since its inception. As it is a private hospital, the public information disclosure required by the State hospitals is not required of it. My stay there was not in some kind of padded room. It was in a plain old regular dorm room, similar to one you’d find at an old college. Granted, the doors to the outside were locked 24/7, but the facility itself was run-down. Unlike Western and Eastern State Hospitals, there is no website data from Fairfax citing its daily cost. It’s a private facility.
Oh yeah: one more thing. Fairfax is owned by Psychiatric Solutions Inc. (PSI). Please join me in congratulating PSI for making Fortune Magazine’s list of Top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies:
FRANKLIN, Tenn., Aug 18, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) — For the fourth consecutive year, Psychiatric Solutions, Inc. (”PSI”) (NASDAQ: PSYS) has made Fortune magazine’s list of the Top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies. It is the only Tennessee company to make this year’s list, as it was in 2008 and 2006. https://www.psysolutions.com/facilities/news/fortune-magazine.html
PSI, which is the largest operator of psychiatric inpatient facilities in the country, ranked No. 98 on the list released by the magazine in August 2009, which considers factors such as revenue and earnings per share (EPS) growth rates. Last year, PSI ranked No. 64. In 2007 and 2006, it ranked No. 49 and No. 34, respectively.
How can they get away with this? Simple: There is more demand than supply for short-term mental health care facilities. Solution: build more short-term care facilities. I think that everyone would agree that $35 Million builds quite a few new facilities.
* Taken from Fairfax’s invoices to my insurance company.