Mental Health Agencies Asleep At The Wheel

I did not have a good experience with a community mental health center because the one I was involved with for 3 1/2 years was ill-equipped to help a young person like me that had so much potential for what she could do in life.

After I came out of the hospital, I was shunted into “transitional” programs that led to dependence and disability instead. I fought to be taken seriously in my goal of obtaining a full-time job and living independently.

It’s why I’m not a fan of most community mental health centers.

And Rep. Tim Murphy released a report slamming SAMSHA, the government agency, for not doing anything to help individuals with serious mental illnesses. The funds given SAMSHA couldn’t be accounted for. There was no proof that anything SAMSHA does helps those of us with severe symptoms.

In reality, staff at SAMSHA are against treating people with medication. Its funding goes to agencies that advocate for people to refuse the treatment that can help these individuals be in remission.

Here’s the results from the Treatment Advocacy Center press release:

“The GAO (government General Accounting Office) identified 112 programs spread across eight federal agencies with combined budgets of $5.7 billion in 2013 that might support individuals with serious mental illness but only 30 targeted specifically for this population.

• Of the 30 targeted programs, fewer than half had been evaluated or were scheduled to be evaluated. As an example, a multi-agency committee established to improve coordination for such programs has not met since 2009.

• Few agencies were found to be tracking or evaluating their programs for serious mental illness, and many were unable to say how much money was actually being spent for the target population or if individuals were actually participating in such programs.

‘This is a stunning independent validation of what we been saying for years: The people who need help the most are being neglected by the federal agency responsible for ensuring they get help,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center. The GAO found that of the 30 programs specifically targeted for individuals with a severe mental illness, most of those were in agencies like the Veterans Administration and Department of Justice, whose missions don’t include mental health.

The report was prepared in response to a bipartisan request from subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO). Subcommittee members heard testimony at a series of hearings exposing a systematic pattern of focusing federal dollars elsewhere than on those with the profound psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder. This population, estimated at 10 million by the GAO to include individuals with severe depression, is at significantly greater risk for homelessness, arrest and incarceration, suicide, homicide and a number of other negative results when they do not receive treatment.

‘The Oversight subcommittee wanted to know whether the needs of society’s most vulnerable citizens were being addressed by the federal agencies charged with meeting those needs, especially SAMHSA,’ said Fuller. ‘The GAO found they are not.'”

Treatment Options

I’m a mental health activist because I think a lot of traditional treatment options fail the people they’re supposed to help.

The traditional drug rehab treatment center industry is not regulated. How can it help a person that keeps going into the same centers over and over and relapsing? There are only a few treatment centers using evidence-based practices. And too often traditional rehab centers fail individuals who have a co-occurring mental illness. You can read about this in the book Clean by David Sheff that I reviewed at HealthCentral in September 2013.

Too often, traditional “day programs” fail young people with mental illnesses too. These programs are often little more than babysitting services. They fail young people who have the potential to do so much more after they’re newly diagnosed with schizophrenia or another mental illness.

Thus I don’t consider myself to be an “advocate” for traditional community mental health centers like the followers of the current “recovery movement” claim are the best options for treating people with mental illnesses.

I’m an activist who wants to see better options available for everyone who first experiences emotional or mental distress. I will continue to fight for the right of everyone to get the right treatment, right away when they have a break.

Doing nothing is not the solution. Turning people away from the hospital doors is not the answer. Using consumers as cut-rate labor is not the answer. Having anti-psychiatry consumers advise our loved ones not to take medication and to refuse the treatment that would help is not the solution either.

Social skills training and cognitive remediation are best-practices treatment that can help individuals with schizophrenia resume having a normal life.

Going off your medication and getting sick is not in my estimation the way to resume having a normal life. Denying you have an illness is the sure-fire way to become ill. Ironic, yet true.

Business-as-usual hasn’t worked for years. I’m an activist because I don’t “advocate” for the “right” to be psychotic. I don’t “advocate” for a person to accept having symptoms, when getting the right treatment quickly will enable them to live symptom-free or with minimal hardship from minor symptoms.

I had a doctor tell me that “total symptom relief” was the only acceptable outcome for my treatment. No kidding. He set the bar that high.

We need to set the bar higher for the kinds of outcomes we can expect for people newly diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

We need to set the bar because no one should have to endure years and years if not decades of hell from ongoing symptoms, all because their treatment was delayed for too long.

The earlier a person gets the right treatment, the better the outcome is. That’s the bottom line.

I will continue to fight for everyone to have quick access to the right treatment for their needs. I will not join the chorus of haters bashing psychiatry and advancing their no-medication-no-treatment-at-any-time agenda.

Setting the bar higher is an idea whose time has come.