Sheriff Complains About Lack Of State Hospital Beds In Virginia: Part Of National Bed Crisis

Sheriffs angry about lack of hospital beds. (WDBJ)

(4-2-21) An influential Virginia Sheriff lashed out at the state’s behavioral health department and the General Assembly during a press conference this week stating that both needed to “stop passing the buck and step up to develop and implement solutions to address the constant bed shortages and other deficiencies in the state response to mental health crises.”

Flanked by other sheriffs and police chiefs, Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin warned: “Folks that are in crisis, that need help – they aren’t receiving help.”

It is not uncommon, the sheriff said, for his officers to spend hours driving across the state searching for an available state hospital bed only to arrive and be told that none is available.

The officers’ complaints about a lack of state hospital beds for Virginians, who are being held under Temporary Detention Orders (TDOs), is hardly new.

A decade ago, then Inspector General G. Douglas Bevelacqua warned that there were not enough crisis care beds available at state psychiatric hospitals or at local hospitals. During a 90-day period, he discovered emergency rooms had turned away 200 individuals who had met involuntary commitment criteria and were judged dangerous. He called it “streeting” – simply kicking ill individuals to the streets.

In November 2013, state Sen. Creigh Deeds took his son, Gus, to a mental health facility but was told no local hospital bed could be found within the necessary time period for a TDO. Deeds and his son were sent home where Gus attacked his father with a knife, slashing his face, before ending his own life.

In 2015, Jamycheal Mitchell, age 24, died from “wasting away” syndrome in a Hampton Roads Regional jail after waiting 101 days for a state hospital bed. He suffered a heart attack after literally starving to death.

Virginia is not the only state that doesn’t have enough crisis care beds. Back in a 2005 study, the Treatment Advocacy Center warned:

“The consequences of the severe shortage of public psychiatric beds include increased homelessness; the incarceration of mentally ill individuals in jails and prisons; emergency rooms being overrun with patients waiting for a psychiatric bed; and an increase in violent behavior, including homicides, in communities across the nation.”

Fifteen experts cited in that report recommended states have “50 (range 40 to 60) public psychiatric beds per 100,000 population for hospitalization for individuals with serious psychiatric disorders.” At that time, Virginia had less than half that recommended number – 22.5 beds.

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Why Doesn’t Wealthy Arlington Va. Offer First Episode Program? More Peers & Navigators?

Dissociation from MedPage Today

(3-29-21) A group of parents is asking Arlington County (Va.) Behavioral Health to launch a First Episode Psychosis program that will provide intensive case services to young adults ages 15-30. The parents said Arlington County is the only mental health provider in Northern Virginia that does not offer the program.

Why doesn’t it? After all, this Washington D.C. enclave is the sixth wealthiest county in America?

The parents are asking the county to hire more peer support specialists and navigators who can help connect individuals to eligible services.

In a recent letter to Arlington County Commissioners, one parent wrote:

“My son has been traumatized by the lack of proactive services and repeated hospitalizations.”Click to continue…

Two Of Our Best Advocates – Jennifer Marshall & Glenn Close – Continue To Fight Stigma, Encourage Recovery

Five minute Today show segment features Jennifer Marshall.

(3-26-21) Kudos are due to two of my favorite advocates, Jennifer Marshall, co-founder of This Is My Brave, and Actress Glenn Close, founder of Bring Change To Mind.

Both continue to be stigma busters.

Jennifer, whom I’ve blogged about many times, was featured yesterday on The TODAY SHOW and did a fabulous job explaining why it is important for individuals with mental illnesses to tell their recovery stories. She adds her TODAY SHOW appearance to a long list of national stories in such magazines as Oprah’s O and Bipolar featuring her work. She was named a Washingtonian of the Year in 2019 by Washingtonian Magazine.

Award winning actress Glenn Close relishes meaty performances that many in Hollywood wouldn’t dare attempt. She’s done it again in an upcoming movie about addiction called Four Good Days.

I was fortunate enough to meet Jennifer early on after she and my son, Kevin, were in a recovery group together. Kevin was in the first This Is My Brave performance.

I met Glenn Close when I helped her sister, Jessie, write her autobiography, RESILIENCE,  about her struggles with a serious mental illness.

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Struggles Parents/Family Face In Powerful Documentary About Mental Illness Will Be Shown On PBS – But Only If You Call! Do it!

That Way Madness Lies… joins PBS Platform April 5th from Sandra Luckow on Vimeo.

(3-22-21) Imagine calling Oregon State Hospital  because the police told you they took your brother there.

 “I am wanting to get in touch with his case worker.”

A case worker, who doesn’t identify himself, comes on the line.

My brother is in the hospital and I was wondering if I can find out some information about him.”

“Sorry, due to confidentiality laws I can’t tell you whether he is here or not.”

I definitely know he is there because the police just told me that they took him to the hospital. I can at least provide information -“

The case worker cuts you off.

“Yeah, I couldn’t do that without telling you whether he is here or not. But you could do that in a letter form. Of course, you can write a letter to anyone. You can write it to the doctor who is in charge of whoever the person is who might be here.”

He hangs up.

Thus begins Sandra Luckow’s powerful documentary “That Way Madness Lies...

I first wrote about this important documentary in 2017 and now PBS and a division that offers stations programs to customize their schedules has agreed to make it available – but only if each station gets phone calls and emails requesting them to show it. That’s how it works. Otherwise, Sandra must hire a promoter for $10,000 to contact each station to push for showing it – a huge cost for a labor of advocacy. If you belong to a local NAMI or MHA group, you can contact your local station and request a showing.

Also, the film will be available starting April 5th on the PBS streaming service for a short period and then only available free to PBS members.

Please help promote this documentary. It gives readers an unvarnished portrait of what many of us have faced – an adult son who is convinced that he doesn’t need your advice and the bureaucratic hurdles you face navigating a system that is non-responsive.

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Foreign Audiences Are Shocked When I Tell Them How We Lock Up Americans With Mental Illnesses

FROM MY FILES FRIDAY: Since the publication of my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, I have been fortunate enough to speak in Brazil, Iceland, Portugal, India, Poland, and Canada. Whenever I visit a foreign country, I ask how individuals with mental illness are treated. What community services are available? How do these countries handle the fine line between protecting civil rights and getting those who are seriously ill the help they might need? I posted a variation of this blog in March 2014. What experiences have you had in foreign countries? Please let me know in the comment section on my Facebook page.

Do Europeans look at mental illnesses differently from us?

I was in Warsaw, Poland, last week delivering a speech to an international group whose members appeared shocked when they heard my personal story about how my son and I were turned away from a hospital emergency room when he was psychotic. The audience continued to be surprised when I added that there were 365,000 persons in the U.S. with severe mental illnesses in U.S. jails and prisons, making jails the largest public mental facilities in America. Jaws dropped when I said a recent study found that the odds of someone getting a hospital bed vs a jail bed were three-to-one in favor of jail.

I’m always curious about how other nations balance civil rights and involuntary commitment. Poland adopted the World Health Organizations’ standards:

Involuntary admission is permitted only if both the following criteria are met: – there is evidence of mental disorder of specified severity as defined by internationally accepted standards; – there is a likelihood of self-harm or harm to others and/or of a deterioration in the patient’s condition if treatment is not given.

Given that most U.S. states use similar standards, I wondered why my European audience found my personal story and U.S. incarceration rates so surprising. Why haven’t their jails becoming dumping grounds?

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“Recovery Colleges” Could Fill A Gap Between Community Treatment And Long Term Hospital Beds

(3-14-21) In a recent blog questioning whether states need to build new psychiatric hospitals, I mentioned CooperRiis and Gould Farm  as examples of long-term residential facilities that offer compassionate care.  Virgil Stucker, the nation’s leading authority on healing communities, responded with this guest blog. 

Consider the Concept of a Mental Health Recovery College

By Virgil Stucker

Pete, thank you for your thoughtful blog about the chasm in the care continuum between inpatient hospital acute care and community-based care. As you can imagine, I share your concerns.

Society’s long-term care and treatment options for individuals with complex and persistent mental illnesses have too often been the streets, jail or the homes of aging parents.  About 8.4 million mentally ill adults, with an average age of 45, appear to be living in various states of chronicity with varying levels of parental support and modest Social Security Administration funding.

Some of these individuals may benefit from a local PACT (assertive community treatment) programs, which are designed to keep them out of a hospital and to provide access to some level of case and medication management. Some may be in a group home; some of these homes are good, but many are like small warehouses that are more isolating than state hospitals used to be. Many could have benefited had they had the opportunity to experience a robust mental health recovery program, the best of which offer multi-stage treatment options and actually help their residents obtain training, employment and independent living. Click to continue…