Try getting into a hospital—that is if you want or need to. Today with the closure of many state hospitals, people, who previously would have been patients, are winding up homeless or as inmates in prisons—the new version of state hospitals. In some ways we have come full circle: from being chained to walls–to hospitals–to back to a facsimile of the cages of the 19th century.
Those fortunate to have good private insurance (Medicaid/Medicare is also okay), fare somewhat better, but that doesn’t mean getting help is a given. If you wind up in the emergency room of a general hospital, it’s often left to someone on the phone (a person with no more than a college degree), whether to admit you or not. Doctors have an input, but the final decision is based on money and that means getting permission from your insurance company. What’s also bizarre is that this invisible person (who has never met you) lets the admitting staff know how many days they have to get you well before kicking you out (and this before you’ve even set foot in the ward).
I have learned that the magic words for admission are: “I am suicidal and I have a plan.” If you say that you are practically guaranteed a bed. Sadly, the people who are completely out of their minds and brought in by concerned family or friends (because they are talking to garbage cans and aliens) are often told to leave unless they agree to be admitted voluntarily or are an imminent threat to themselves or others. They may be as psychotic as hell, but told to go back to whatever hole they’ve crawled out from, which often is an abandoned building without heat or a subway station. Is it their right to refuse treatment? That is a big issue and there are many opinions on the subject, but I can guarantee which side you’d fall on if your son, daughter, etc. were the poor schmuck wandering the freezing streets at night.
The last time I visited my son in the hospital, in the spring of 2010, I noticed that most people were there for depression. Depression is a serious illness and I’m not minimizing its rank among the serious mental illnesses, but people with depression often want help. Who wants to feel like shit? Those folks who don’t know their asses from their heads are being worse than ignored, they are being abandoned, discarded like yesterday’s trash, and society, as well as the individuals involved, pays a price. I’m sure many of you have already heard how prisons now have more people with MI than hospitals, so, rest assured … our tax dollars are still being put to use.
No one could reasonably argue that it wouldn’t be better to be proactive than reactive. So who’s at fault? The blame lies with many: the do-good lawyers and their impossible laws, an out-of-whack health care system, and lack of money from federal and state agencies. I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll leave those for a future shopping list. In the meantime, I’ll try to do the little I can, at least for my loved ones, and remember to say, “God bless the helpers among us!”