Where Are the Hospitals?
To the editor:
Thanks to K.C. Myers for her year-end review of mental health care and the tragedies that happened on the Outer Cape [Dec. 29, page A4]. I’d like to expand on some of her points.
A friend’s mentally ill son recently spent 11 days in a local emergency room until a psychiatric bed could be found. When a bed was found, they didn’t have the resources to treat him and sent him to a hospital in the western part of the state. This scenario is repeated almost daily for adults and is worse for kids.
We’ve read here about mental health courts and prison units devoted to psychiatric care. Where are the psychiatric hospitals devoted to care before someone commits a crime? Massachusetts lacks the appropriate number of psychiatric beds by any standard.
The Dept. of Mental Health has deviated from its mission of supporting treatment and recovery for the severely and persistently mentally ill but is on the path to becoming a de facto housing agency. It advocates for scattered-site independent living, while studies show that most of the homeless are mentally ill or addicted and need treatment before they can succeed in independent apartments, even with support.
While DMH has committed to recovery and peer specialists, it does so at the expense of recognizing the severity of these diseases and the need for professionals to treat them. It recently committed millions of dollars to recreating the former community mental health centers, now called “behavioral health” centers. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression aren’t behavioral problems. They are real illnesses needing professional treatment. Yet the workforce to staff them is virtually nonexistent.
For every family like Susan and Adam Howe’s, there are far more who are suffering, unable to obtain care, and hoping that something really tragic doesn’t happen.
Laura Logue Rood
Provincetown and Boston