The Deficiencies in Caring for those with Mental Illness: We must do Better.
The deficiency of our health care system when it comes to mental illness is not new. For decades, health care professionals and those who suffer from mental illness and their families have called attention to the lack of consistent, integrated care for these vulnerable populations.
Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Jay Greene recently delved into this complex issue with a comprehensive series of articles. The articles — which focus on Metro Detroit — come to two conclusions.
One, our deficiencies in caring for those with mental illness have reached a crisis point. Two, there are meaningful solutions that can be implemented. I would agree with both of these assessments.
The demand for mental health services is growing. Rising suicide rates and drug dependencies have escalated the demand for psychiatric services. And the system, as is, is ill-equipped to meet this demand. As there are few appropriate alternatives, people experiencing a mental health crisis go to hospital emergency rooms out of necessity. This is not only an inefficient way for a mental health patient to receive the best diagnosis and treatment plan, but also the most expensive.
Patients with mental health issues languish in the ER, sometimes for days, until they are diagnosed and can be admitted to the psychiatric ward, if and when bed space is available. And unfortunately, since most mental health patients require a specialized treatment plan to address their complex issues, many ER attendants are not properly prepared to care for patients when they arrive at the hospital. When finally diagnosed, treated and stabilized, these patients are often discharged to the streets — sometimes literally — as a high percentage of our homeless populations deal with chronic mental health issues, and very few shelters receive those with severe psychiatric issues.
The biggest benefit our consumers receive at Central City Integrated Health is right in our name: “Integrated.” At CCIH, we can help facilitate housing, ensure patients’ basic needs are taken care of; and that their treatment plans and medication regiments are up-to-date. This decreases the use of ER for core services. CCIH is the only Federally Qualified Health Center that can treat both patients with severe mental illness and those with mild disease.
People can get better, and when they do, there should be a support system in place. Too often, someone is in a severe mental health crisis due to lack of care, goes to the ER, gets stabilized, and then is out on the streets. This process is then repeated over and over. The ability to treat those with moderate mental illness issues ensures fewer traumatic emergency crises.
As we move forward in 2019, CCIH looks forward with great enthusiasm to working with all of its stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcomes for these vulnerable populations, so the journey to long-term well-being becomes a realistic and achievable goal.