I am so disheartened on the one hand. And on the other, I am thoroughly and completely disgusted.
I have a friend who does not live nearby. I've known her for many years. Her daughter was diagnosed with a mental illness quite some time ago. There were behaviors over the years, as is the case with many of those who suffer with diseases of the brain. Some of those behaviors created legal troubles and her daughter has spent time incarcerated.
She was on probation and about a month ago, she was given a one year jail term for a parole violation. It was not for a violent episode or anything that caused harm to herself or another. She didn't steal anything. She was beyond the geographical boundaries permitted by the conditions of her parole. Far too many who suffer from mental illness, find themselves on the street, seeking shelter with the next friend or family member on their list of people. As she moved down the list, she also moved beyond her circle. Legally.
Now under arrest, directly from court, she was brought to a regional jail. My friend brought a bag filled with medications that her daughter needs. She has some rather serious physical issues in addition to the mental illness. (Why we even differentiate between the two is pissing me off... a disease of the brain is a disease but before I go off in a million directions....) So there are many health issues and if I understand this properly, until the jail does a medical evaluation, her prescribed meds should have been administered from the clearly labeled pharmacy bottles brought from home.
It seems no medications were dispensed. She was taken into custody somewhere around October 22nd. Five days ago, my friend received a call from one of the other women in the unit. Her daughter was removed from her cell, unconscious. Body spasms and shaking (perhaps like a seizure) were observed by the other women and the guards were overheard using the word "stroke."
Three weeks without all prescribed medications for both her physical ailments, which are quite serious and her mental illness could do that. Some of the medications can't just be stopped, they must be weaned for one thing. And for another, this is the USA in the year 2013 and a 30+ year old woman has been treated in a cruel and inhumane fashion. In a jail where the explanations are, "Just because....."
And today, it is my friend who is being treated in the most cruel fashion. She has no idea where her daughter is. Her attorney was blocked from getting any information. No explanation for that. The only thing my friend was told was that her daughter is alive. The supposed explanation for zero information to mom.... HIPAA compliance according to the jail officials. When she asked the jail to please give her daughter a HIPAA form to sign, she was informed they don't do that. Her daughter has to ask for the form, they do not and will not offer it to her.
As of now, nothing is known of her medical condition. Her whereabouts are also unknown. She may be in the medical unit of the jail or she might have been moved but there is no way to find out. She may be conscious or she may be comatose. A petition was being made to the court for immediate relief of some sort based upon cruel and inhuman punishment.
I don't know anything about that petition so I can't share more information.
The only thing I can say is this. The jails are filled with the mentally ill and that is wrong. I've been on a high horse about the way we care for the mentally ill in this country since July. For those who may be familiar with my introduction to the mental health system, this friend is NOT the same friend I wrote about over the summer. There was financial means to arrange for private care and that treatment is ongoing and unbelievably expensive.
In this case, there was not a well of funds from which to draw. If we are to discuss disparity, there is no wider disparity than exists in the treatment of mental illness, diseases of the brain. Even those with the best insurance coverage, in almost all cases, are forced to pay tremendous sums of money, out of pocket. The haves get treatment. The have nots wind up on the street, or in a psychiatric ward where they are drugged to keep them sedate, or in jail. I'm watching this from both sides, seeing the disparate care and treatment of those who have and those who don't and frankly, it sickens me.
I'm angry. And for those who may think this sounds like a bunch of bullshit, I can assure you, it's not. This is a real life situation that is playing out now. I spoke to my friend the other day. I was given many other details which I'm choosing not to share. Yet.
My last communication with her was several hours ago. She was heading to the jail this morning. If I don't hear from her, I should presume she got arrested for demanding answers.
I don't think I'll be sitting on the sidelines for much longer on the issue of mental illness and the need for advocates on EVERY level. Research, care, housing, legal matters, insurance (because mental health parity does not truly mean parity but I'm still researching and learning so rather than spew, I'll fact check but at first glance, parity is an option, not a mandate) and the list is longer than I can digest. I only know that the costs are enormous and as I've discussed with others within this group of friends who are hand wringing beside me, it's time to remove the stigma from mental illness, it's a disease, NOT a character flaw.
And, the mentally ill can't just snap out of it. Those who have that set of beliefs are not only without compassion, they are IGNORANT. Yes, totally and completely IGNORANT.
It's time for the rest of us to snap to it and demand change.
Those who can, Should.
And those who should, Must.
After writing this post......
As if by magic, Intake.Me posted a link to this article in Slate:
No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict. Let me just mention that the author's wife was treated for breast cancer and the casseroles were flying. He knows first hand.
Like it? Share it!