Governor Deeds, I want to tell you I am so sorry about the tragedy you experienced. My heart aches for you. I cannot imagine your pain. As the mother of an adult daughter who has struggled with a mental illness, I would like to say THANK YOU for your courage to speak out and address the issue of care for the mentally ill in America.
To my readers: I ‘m speaking about Virginia’s Governor, Creigh Deeds. Have you seen any of his recent interviews? His adult son suffered with a serious mental illness. He unexpectedly became violent, stabbed his father, then killed himself.
To me, the bigger tragedy is that this happened the day after Deed’s son was released from the hospital for his psychiatric troubles. The governor knew his son’s problems were serious. He’d been hospitalized many times. This loving father tried to do everything he could to get help for his son. He had no idea things would become violent.
After taking time for physical and emotional healing Governor Deeds has decided it’s time to go public. His goal? Better care for the mentally ill. If you’re the parent of an adult child (or a minor) who suffers with a mental illness, you understand.
Have you had your child in an emergency room in a desperate attempt to save their life? Then the insurance company insisted they be released — maybe too soon. And released to where? To what kind of treatment? You know you can’t help them. They certainly won’t be safe alone or with their friends. They need ongoing treatment — insurance companies in many states refuse to pay or pay very little.
I live in Florida where we have the The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, also called the Baker Act. This allows a person to be evaluated by authorities — a policeman, judge, an EMT, or mental health professional — and if determined to: 1) Possibly have a mental illness, 2) Be a danger to themselves or to someone else, or 3) Be neglecting themselves — then they can be involuntarily institutionalized for a minimum of 72 hours. When necessary, this can be extended for a longer period of time.
Their problems aren’t solved, but at least they’re safe and supervised. Hopefully, by the end of 72 hours they’ll be stable enough to be released. However, the individual has the right to refuse treatment and can refuse medication. Psychiatric care professionals will try to work with family, if they have any, to come up with a plan for treatment upon discharge. Residential care is often needed. It may be voluntary or involuntary. Much depends on their financial resources.
In Florida, if the person lacks the ability to pay, the state will usually pay (when Baker Acted), or else the hospital may have to. Hospitals exhaust every other possibility before they will keep a patient who is unable to pay. If they do have to accept them, they’ll limit the stay as best they can.
Treatment isn’t cheap.
Many can’t afford it.
Without insurance care will be limited. Even with insurance, good care is hard to find.
Many fall in the cracks.
Their suffering goes on and on — so does their family’s.
Yesterday I received an email informing me that the government is trying to pass a law that will decrease the amount of money Medicaid and Medicare will pay out for the medications of mental health patients. Are they kidding? Where do you think that will lead?
To more pain and suffering — more tragic endings.
Governor Deeds, I sincerely hope and pray you’re successful in getting the attention of decision makers. We’re long overdue for major improvements in the care that is available to the mentally ill. Without this, I fear there will only be more problems in our country’s future.
God bless you as you fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.
This Bible verse comes to my mind: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:28)
* Check out National Alliance on Mental Illness: nami.org They’re working hard to make a difference. Find out what you can do.