Monday, May 20, 2013
Letter to the Editor
I work in the mental health system, managing emergency response services for people in crisis.
L.D. 87, "An Act To Improve Community Mental Health Treatment," would help re-establish community-based mental health services, which have been cut by the Department of Health and Human Services.
One treatment option that would be restored is the ability to provide/receive support services in a consumer's own home.
These "scattered-site" homes provide an opportunity for people with mental illness to live in the community with minimal supports, in contrast to more costly psychiatric institutions.
Let's not forget the days when thousands of Maine citizens sat for decades in large psychiatric hospitals, experiencing their surrounding community either through security glass or an occasional outing.
Non-institutionalized support offered thousands of people the opportunity for richer and more productive lives than the isolation and warehousing of the past provided.
Additionally, the naive assumption that eliminating this level of care somehow would be addressed magically by the already overburdened community resources only further added to an avalanche of demands on our legal and emergency response systems.
Reducing adequate levels of community-based care leaves these individuals with few treatment options and often necessitates more costly interventions.
Since 2009, when private nonmedical institutions were eliminated, consumers entering the crisis system have presented with drastically more severe and complex symptoms.
The only obvious alternatives of "treatment" have become law enforcement, rescue involvement, prolonged stays in emergency rooms, extended psychiatric in-patient admissions and increases in incarcerations.
L.D. 87 would restore this needed service for many of our most vulnerable citizens.
We know the sins of our past, and we are beginning to realize the sins of the present. This legislation gives us the chance to compassionately restore what is right and effective.