A Shameful California Reality Check

Ventura County Client writes to mitruestories:

The  following MHSA policy statement comment/emergency room testimony is as about as compelling as it gets- don’t take it only from me. I am a MHSA stakeholder doing systems transformation since 2004:

“We treat over twenty two hundred individuals each year on our inpatient unit but that is only a small portion of the five thousand plus individuals who come to our Emergency Department seeking help for the most severe psychiatric symptoms.  Our unit is always full and we send many more patients away to other hospitals or community programs than we can serve.  Our medical emergency department is impacted with psychiatric patients who are denied services supported by MHSA funds because they on an involuntary hold.  They are too acutely ill to receive psychiatric services from the Agencies that are the recipients of these funds.  By default these acutely ill psychiatric patients become the responsibility of medical community, not psychiatrists or anyone with psychiatric experience.  They are held without treatment in our medical emergency rooms.  This is the story of the misuse of these resources and the lack of psychiatric services for the mentally ill in the majority of communities.  Because of unfunded mandates like EMTALA it becomes the responsibility of our medical emergency departments across the State to house these individuals even though they have no services to offer them and  the vast majority of the individuals have no medical issues.  Yet the money from the Mental Health Services Act continues to be sent to the Counties where these funds are diverted from providing any care for these, our most acutely ill neighbors.  The funds are used to provide new, very low yield services such as anti-stigma campaigns to grade school children or art shows in the park.  Shame on all of us who claim to be advocates for  the mentally ill. “ 

T. L. MSW, MPA

DIRECTOR OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES

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