Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

The mental health system – where “broken” never goes out of style

Post by Brian O'Neill on March 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm with 12 Comments »
March 10, 2013 9:00 pm

If Google were truly the revealing search engine we think it is, I should be able to download the entirety of our state’s mental health system simply by entering a single keyword: Broken.

Sean Robinson’s exhaustive article (Trib 3/10) reveals a system plagued by slipshod accountability and error-prone service. This comes as no surprise for the people who operate within this cyclical business, a list which includes firefighters and cops, ER docs and nurses, along with the mental health professionals who hold the keys to long term treatment.

Robinson delved into the minutiae of his topic in typical fashion, and the results only confirm that our current process for treating our mentally ill  is woefully inadequate. “Treat ‘em and street ‘em” is the operative phrase.

The story of two very different individuals may help illustrate my point.

First there’s Jane, a young womanwho grew up in a troubled home. Because her mom was an alcoholic in an abusive relationship, Jane was used to cops showing up at her door. As time passed and Jane developed her own set of problems, she started flirting with suicide.

Jane’s flirtations with death became so routine that she knew the exact words or actions which would precipitate an involuntary committal, and an ambulance ride to the ER. Often she would call us by name, and was always polite to the medics who bandaged the gashes on her scarred wrists. When she arrived at the ER, the  mental health professionals would interview her and, usually, send her home the next day.

One day Jane wasn’t satisfied with cutting her wrists up. That day her suicidal ideations (a term she must have heard a million times) leapt out of her imagination and became real. I learned of her death from one of my friends at work, and I was shocked. But I was not surprised.

Then there was Jimmy ( also not his real name). Jimmy could be a pretty scary guy when his mind made the inevitable decline into a dark landscape. Though he lived on the street and was marginally responsible for his own care, and when he missed his meds the 911 call sounded something like, ”Yea, there’s a naked guy beating the s— out of some dude with a tent pole.”

I never knew what Jimmy was like on a good day. The only time I ever saw him he was either comatose (too much medication) or else hyped up. On those latter occasions he was a real handful, to say the least, yet he always seemed to show up on the street a few days later.

I’ll admit these two examples are a small sampling. But there are many more out there like Jane and Jimmy, people cursed with either drug related mental disorders or serious mental health issues. Many of them present a danger – to the public, their families, law enforcement and, most often, to themselves – that is all too often brushed aside by a system that simply can’t handle the sheer numbers.

As a conversation starter, Robinson’s article is a worthy description of our state’s flawed, underfunded and inadequate mental health system. We need to be willing to admit that there are many people out there who can’t make it on their own, whose demons are simply too hard to overcome alone.

And if we don’t do something to keep them safe, the demons that race around inside their heads may one day come looking for us.

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. Today the locals (the Puyallup Police Dept.)must have ‘helped’ about a
    dozen of the local mentally ill. Most of the mentally ill don’t like
    cops. There are more and more wandering the city and asking for cigarettes. The mentally ill are the most fragile, along with children,
    people in our society. How much is dedicated to schooling and how much
    to treatment of the mentally ill?

  2. rebelready says:

    Actually the single key word is CORRUPTION–there is no legitimate mental healthcare in WA State. It is all about pharmaceutical kick backs – psychotropic drugs which are actually creating criminals, and retaining long term inpatient those already established on Medicare/Medicaid or those who would readily qualify for the same with a little fraudulent documentation. WSH is ripping the tax payer off by claiming institutional custody of criminal indigent Defendants when they are actually in jail custody and their restore to competency ruse is actually to render further incompetence so that guilty pleas can be coerced or to effectuate the appearance of need for civil commitment with over drugging. The aforementioned scheme adds up to millions with the least fraudulent claim being the extra month they add to all notices of release.

    The MQAC, DOH, DOJ, State AG, State Police, multiple members of the State legislature and the Governor’s office are all aware and do nothing; the corrupt clerks in the federal court block filings that reveal this little sick scheme from the federal judges and protect your corrupt assigned counsel.

    They all cry poor mouth as the reason behind the lack of care while the robbing of the tax payer and the egregious violations of the rights of the mentally ill continue. Sorry folks but it appears the new political party of this country is the Psychopathic Party and we are literally screwed because it exist at all levels of government.

  3. smokey984 says:

    rebelready Amen.

  4. Hey reb, We are guessing that you have no proof for your claims. Did you get fired or something?

  5. Brian, We know about the examples. How about the funding level. What is it and what does it need to be according to the experts?
    Will those who complain the loudest pay more in taxes? I doubt it. They usually have no clue.

  6. rebelready says:

    Publico
    The proof is public record. Months of research. Interviews with family members of victims. Want the PDF give me an email address and I’ll be happy to send it to you. Would you like to help me get it out to the public. If you watch news media you will see that their largest supporters are Pharmaceutical Companies so it is quite difficult to get them to act. Known inappropriate and purposefully corrupt care of which all records and allegations receive bogus crap from the people in this state who are suppose to be working for you but rather turn a blind eye to corruption makes them complicit. Here is a sample but the actual document is color coded so the the corruption can stare you in the face.

    10/26/2011 ORDER FOR 15 DAY IN PATIENT EXAM NOTICE OF RELEASE WATCH 12/12/2011 ORDER OF 90 DAY COMMITMENT BASED 0N 10.77.060 REPORT DATED 12/6/2011 05/23/2012 NOTICE OF RELEASE EFFECTIVE 5/1/2012|COMMITTED 11/23/2011 04/03/2012 ORDER DETERMINING COMPETENCY TO STAND TRIAL BASED ON 10.66.060 REPORT DATED 3/20/2012 06/25/2012 ORDER FOR EXAM 09/12/2012 NOTICE OF RELEASE EFFECTIVE 8/6/2012 |COMMITTED 7/2/2012 07/19/2012 ORDER OF 90 DAY COMMITMENT BASED 0N 10.77.060 REPORT DATED 7/2/2012 ORDERED AGAINST WILL PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATION 01/29/2013 NOTICE OF RELEASE EFFECTIVE 12/11/2012 | COMMITTED 8/13/2012 07/26/2012 ORDER ALLOWING INVOLUNTARY MEDICATION 08/15/2012 ORDER ALLOWING INVOLUNTARY MEDICATION 11/13/2012 ORDER DETERMINING COMPETENCY TO STAND TRIAL 11/29/2012 PLED GLTY
    next hearing 05/22/2013 REVIEW

    07/24/2012 SWORN DECLARATION OF ********* INCLUDES DEFENDANT WITH SPECIFIC IN JAIL BEHAVIOR NOTED 6/24/2012 & 7/21/2012
    **** NOTES custody@WSH 1/4/12 – 4/2/12

    NOTE: Initial 15 day commitment occurred on 11/23/2011 with transport back to jail on or about 12/8/2011-Based on 4/3/2012 competency hearing the commitment to WSH occurred on or about 1/2/2012 and Defendant returned to the jail on or about 4/1/2012 (WSH usual practice of adding an extra month to the release notice). WSH included 25 days extra (12/8/2011- 1/2/2012) leaving absent the notice of release post the initial 15 day inpatient exam and slid the dates into the next notice of release even though the Defendant was housed in the jail.
    WSH included an extra 30 days because they did not have the Defendant in custody 4/1/2012-5/1/2012. Per ****** Declaration the Defendant was seen inpatient at WSH and noting the 7/2/2012 commitment date and the usual WSH practice of adding an extra month with sworn testimony by **** regarding Defendant’s behavior in the jail on 7/21/2012 it appears Defendant was at WSH 7/2/2012- 7/6/2012; another 31 days extra recorded by WSH. Finally the notice of release dated 1/29/2013 states effective 12/11/2012; monitoring of the jail roster initiated 11/27/2012 and the Defendant was in jail custody from that date until she went off the jail roster. Defendant’s docket stated NOT IN CUSTODY on 11/29/2012; this was the day she pled guilty. Since 11/11/2012 was a Sunday it appears WSH just took an extra 4 weeks 11/13/2012 – 12/11/2012 for another 28 days extra. Total days extra 114. At $550.00 per day base cost to house a criminal Defendant on the forensic side of WSH the extra taken days add up to $62,700 extra cost to the tax payer for one defendant plus the cost of actually housing the Defendant in the jail.

    Pierce County also needs to know that the warning on the Court Docket Web site does not comply with established law. “This information is copyright protected and owned by Pierce County. Copying or storing the electronic files and/or data from this website, for the purpose of providing access to third parties is strictly prohibited.”

    You cannot copyright public records and especially cannot copyright court documents!!!!

    There is at common law “a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents.” Nixon v. Warner Communications, 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978). The Court of Appeals reversed. United States v. Mitchell, 179 U.S.App.D.C. 293, 551 F.2d 1252 (1976). It stressed the importance of the common law privilege to inspect and copy judicial records…It is clear that the courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records and document, including judicial records and documents. See, e.g., McCoy v. Providence Journal Co., 190 F.2d 760, 765-766 (CA1), cert. denied, 342 U.S. 894 (1951); Fayette County v. Martin, 279 Ky. 387, 395-396, 130 S.W.2d 838, 843 (1939); Nowack v. Auditor General, 243 Mich. 200, 203-205, 219 N.W. 749, 750 (1928); In re Egan, 205 N.Y. 147, 154-155, 98 N.E. 467, 469 (1912); State ex rel. Nevada Title Guaranty & Trust Co. v. Grimes, 29 Nev. 50, 82-86, 84 P. 1061, 1072-1074 (1906); Brewer v. Watson, 71 Ala. 299, 303-306 (1882); People ex rel. Gibson v. Peller, 34 Ill.App.2d 372, 374-375, 181 N.E.2d 376, 378 (1962). In many jurisdictions this right has been recognized or expanded by statute. See, e.g., Ill.Rev.Stat., ch 116, § 43.7 (1975) …American decisions generally do not condition enforcement of this right on a proprietary interest in the document or upon a need for it as evidence in a lawsuit. The interest necessary to support the issuance of a writ compelling access has been found, for example, in the citizen’s desire to keep a watchful eye on the workings of public agencies, see, e.g., State ex rel. Colscott v. King, 154 Ind. 621, 621-627, 57 N.E. 535, 536-538 (1900); State ex rel. Ferry v. Williams, 41 N.J.L. 332, 336-339 (1879), and in a newspaper publisher’s intention to publish information concerning the operation of government, see, e.g., State ex rel. Youmans v. Owens, 28 Wis.2d 672, 677, 137 N.W.2d 470, 472 (1965), modified on other grounds, 28 Wis.2d 685a, 139 N.W.2d 241 (1966).

  7. Brian O'Neill says:

    As everyone knows, medical care is expensive. If we were to delve into a fully funded mental health system, we should not kid ourselves that it would be costly. There are two reasons we should head in that direction (and move further away from our current practice of underfunding).

    The first is that too many people are wandering the streets with debilating, life-altering mental illnesses. It is a poor reflection on us that we allow this to happen.

    The second, and the one which usually garners national attention, is the impact on the rest of us when disturbed individuals become violent. How many mass shootings need to occur before we get tired of reading about the latest disturbed individual on a shooting rampage because there was no room at the hospital?

    Sorry I don’t have more specific costs, but I would expect Sean Robinson does.

  8. I volunteered at WSH for 9 months in 1980. The patients treated me
    mostly just fine. The staff learned to hate me because I was working
    with the psychologist. In the end I left because the staff could
    easily endanger my life. Jobs, money and unions don’t you know.

  9. We need you in Pierce County NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). jimherbwilliams@yahoo.com

  10. smokey984 says:

    You want the truth about mental health and big Pharma’s influence?

    Click and read:

    http://ssristories.com/index.php

    Arm the mind! stop listening to the lame stream media and narrow minded folks who write one sided articles with a limited field of vision…Do the research for yourself.

  11. Brian O'Neill says:

    Smokey- I don’t think your comment will make it past the filter. I believe there’s a one-link limit per comment.

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