Thursday, May 31, 2007

Perdue Vetoes Mental Health Commission

Just days after a patient at West Central Georgia Regional Hospital died from a severe beating, and even as the federal regulators pronounced that patients in that facility were in "immediate jeopardy," Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed Senate Resolution 363, a measure that would have established a commission to probe and make recommendations about how to improve Georgia's cash-strapped mental health service system. I can't imagine what his rationale was, except that such a commission might end up pointing a finger at a Governor who thinks fish are more important than funding critical mental health services. What a shame.

When the State fails to fund community mental health and addiction treatment, patients do not magically get well. Many end up untreated, unmedicated, jailed or homeless. Too often, when we do provide treatment, it is at the most expensive and least effective point in the process. This is a policy that makes our communities less safe and ultimately costs more money. If you don't believe me, spend a morning down at the courthouse listening to criminal calendar call. Count the number of cases where drugs are involved. Currently, in Bibb County, the largest provider of mental health services our Sheriff's Department. What sort of sense does that make?

I have worked as a mental health professional for many years, and what angers and frustrates me the most about the constant bleed on mental health resources is that more than ever, we have the ability to effectively treat mental illness. The medicines, though prohibitively expensive in many cases, are more effective and less dangerous. Even for addiction, new treatment methods and medicines offer hope. We can treat mental illness and addiction, but we choose not to. As of yesterday, we choose not to even take a good hard look at a system that is failing.

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1 comment:

Tina said...

Georgia ranks 43rd in per capita spending on mental health services. The state per capita expenditure is $49.9. The US per capita average expenditure is $84.7. Poorly financed and poorly staffed programs result in below average treatment. Our legislature doesn't seem to care. Even after the shocking revelations about the state hospitals, the lawmakers in general seemed to have a ho-hum attitude toward the problem. Let's make an exception there for Sen. Johnny Grant of Milledgeville. He is a fine fellow with his heart in the right place on mental health issues. I congratulate him on his efforts.