I’ve been watching a program on PBS called The Mysteries of Mental Illness. It’s fascinating. One of the issues addressed in last night’s episode was what they called “the bright white line” that seems to run between issues that are labeled as physical health, and those labeled as mental health, especially when it comes to coverage by insurance.
Most people seeking mental health treatment soon discover that the coverage they have, if any, is dismally inadequate. In addition, the availability of in-patient treatment options continues to be far lower than the actual need. That’s certainly true in Maryland, which is why I was happy to read about the new Sheppard Pratt center opening in Elkridge.
Amid high demand for psychiatric care services in Maryland, Sheppard Pratt opens new, specialized treatment facility Hallie Miller, Baltimore Sun
I found this quote from the President and CEO of the Sheppard Pratt Health System enlightening:
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in terms of people needing access to services,” Trivedi said. “There are more beds needed; however, a general bed doesn’t work. If we built 12 general beds in this county or that county, it doesn’t solve the problem.
“It’s about having the right continuum of services for what people need and services that are specific to the problems people have.”
It stands to reason that meeting someone’s needs with the appropriate treatment might avoid the likelihood of that person having the kind of crisis that necessitates an in-patient stay. This will not always be true, of course, but some crises can be averted by appropriate proactive treatment. But both the scarcity of mental health services and the stigma around getting help often lead to the need for a reactive response.
In physical health care we often hear about preventative measures to stay healthy. But with mental health we are more likely to ignore the whole thing until it becomes a big problem.
We tend to think we all need “medical doctors” because we all have bodies that need physical care. Why do we not have the same attitude about mental health care? We all have brains, thoughts, emotions - - why don’t we consider regular, preventative care of these to be essential?
The PBS program introduces a question I hadn’t really thought about. Is anyone truly “normal” or do we all exist on a spectrum?
Back to the quote:
It’s about having the right continuum of services for what people need and services that are specific to the problems people have.
This piece of news this week in some ways feels like a response that that sentiment.
Howard County police will defer mental health calls to counselors WBALTV 11
Sending police to handle situations where someone is experiencing a mental health crisis has frequently had tragic results. Police are not trained for this. Their responses can be inappropriate to the situation and have been known to cause more harm rather than prevent it.
Howard County will be responding to calls like this with the ‘right kind of responder for what people need who has the right training for the problems these people have.’ Makes sense, doesn’t it? While the program announced is limited to cases where the 911 dispatcher assesses there is no immediate danger, I would like to see mental health professionals trained in crisis situations included in police responses that do present a degree of danger. Their professional expertise would be invaluable.
I hope we are moving in that direction.
What are your opinions on this topic? Is mental health care in Columbia/HoCo something you are concerned about? Do you think there is enough access to high quality mental health services? I’d love to know what you think.