Monday, January 2, 2012

Mental Health Reform is needed

Last state operated facility in the area was closed in 1997 and demolished in 2000

In order to help save the State of Michigan money, the State started closing state owned and operated mental health hospitals and centers.  Since 1981, over 25 facilities have been shuttered with more than 2/3 of the closings coming under former Gov. Engler's watch.  Currently, only a handful of these facilities exist state wide, none being in the Oakland County area.

The State thought mental health patients could be better handled at a local level and formed more than 45 community mental health organizations across Michigan.  While the state thought community housing and local hospitals could handle the load of patients, that couldn't be further from the truth.  Many mental health patients end up in homeless shelters, walking the streets, or in jails.  Most commonly, the ones who do make it into a group home in your community are poorly supervised and sometimes even left unattended.

While the State tries to do its best, funding for community mental health varies drastically from agency to agency and the formula for funding distribution is in desperate need of updating.  Due to big cuts in funding and lack of quality resources, I do not see the system changing anytime soon, leaving much needed help unattainable for the patients.

What goes unrecognized is the burden this puts on local resources.  When patients are left unsupervised in group homes, they sometimes walk away and go unnoticed for hours.  When they finally are noticed missing, the caretaker calls the police, tying up officers from patrolling the streets.  If they are located, usually the local fire and EMS agencies are called to check the patient and decide if they require hospital care - again tying up local responders.  Sometimes private EMS agencies or local fire departments end up transporting the same patient several times a week to and from the hospital and from facility to facility.  Some patients even live on their own, which can be a burden to local dispatchers because they go into a state of mind where all they may want to do is talk to someone, and they know someone is at the 911 center 24/7.

I am not saying all mental health patients need to be locked up in an asylum, I am simply stating there needs to be a better system in place, more funding made available, and we need to develop a better way to track the more challenging patients.  Had such measures been in place, we may not have recently lost a local hero.

Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority
Michigan Department of Community Health


  1. Ok I do completely agree with you that the mental health system in this state need to be fixed it is beyond broken, having working with the mentally ill in this state as a direct care worker, I understand this better than a lot of people.
    However, I do take exception that they are left unsupervised especially in the group home settings I do not believe that is accurate in most cases.
    You have to understand the rights that they have compared to the general public. If they want to leave they can do so, if they want to hit the staff they are allowed to do so and we are not allowed to defend ourselves. We are to block and evade. We are not allowed to tell they they can or can't do anything. If they want to throw feces on the walls they can do so all we are allowed to do is tell them they shouldn't do that and we have to be careful how we say it o we could be violating their rights. They are well aware of their rights and are not afraid to tell you either. They can and do use that to their advantage 100% of the time.
    I believe that a lot of the residents in the group homes do not belong there they belong in a more restrictive setting of a residential care hospital. Many are on enough medication that they are left drooling on themselves in chairs because no one wants to deal with them. And neighborhoods DO NOT want group homes in them and I can't say that I blame them. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the Mental Health Code. To protect both the rights of the consumers (patients) and the people providing them care.
    Did you know that most of the people in the group homes do not receive any kind of therapy? They are simply medicated and let do as they will. Their "rights" prevent us from teaching them proper behaviors and social norms that most of them lack. They are not being helped simply housed and set lose on the community.
    Until the Mental Health Code of MI is rewritten and there are other opportunities for treatment and housing for them things will never change.

  2. I work at a level one trauma center as a security officer. I deal with the mentally ill on a daily basis. What I see is a revolving door. Patient A comes in for an overdose or suicidal intentions. He or she is held in the ED until a bed becomes available at a mental health facility then is transferred. In less then a week patient A is back for the same thing.
    Patient B comes into the hospital for a preventable disease that was left untreated. A doctor deems the patient under protective custody, a ward of the hospital. Patient B is treated for the disease then released. Staff knows full well that patient B will be back for not caring for his or herself.
    Both patients cost the hospital system and tax payers countless millions a year tying up the hospital system. More needs to be done to bring to light the subject of mental health. With out long care facilities we are just putting duct tape on a gushing pipe.