Robert David Jaffee: When mental illness and civil rights collide

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Too many people don't get the proper treatment. Every day, as I drive in Los Angeles, I see people who need help and aren't getting it.

Partly this is because of the costs and limitations of healthcare. I once gave a talk to a self-help group in Pasadena, and was approached afterward by a recent high school graduate who had been kicked out of his house by his parents. He was living with his grandmother, who told me that he had exhausted the number of therapy sessions his insurance allowed. She didn't know how he could get affordable help in the future.

Other people are too sick to know they need help. It's hard to know how much of the region's homelessness problem is because of mental illness. But a 2007 count of the homeless by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that of the county's 68,608 residents identified as homeless in the study, 52% suffered from depression and 31% reported experiencing more serious mental illnesses.

Many mentally ill people living on the streets have refused treatment. I understand this. When I was on my trek, if a doctor had come up to me, I would have been terrified that he was going to harm or even kill me.

It is much better to encourage, rather than force, the mentally ill to get treatment. But what if they don't respond?

A long time ago in a land far away I served a chaplaincy internship at the second largest VA hosptial in the country. A number of the patients on the floors I worked on were like this man. These are troubling questions, but they have to be faced. Read it all--KSH.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychology

Posted December 30, 2008 at 1:03 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Juandeveras wrote:

The author’s “trip” across LA ( he apparently had a method of transportation ) could have been successfully concluded had he dropped by the Venice Free Clinic ( or its sister clinic(s) ), where they would have seen him. Perhaps it now falls as a task which the ACLU should be forced to underwrite - to supply satisfactory ( to the ACLU ) means by which the homeless, which they so assiduously “defend”, can be given understandable & lucid directions to a place of care ( and maybe even making the ACLU drive them there ). Perhaps the centerpoint of this ACLU-led campaign for the homeless should begin in the ten-block human cesspool of inhabited cardboard boxes located several blocks from the offices of the friend-to-the-downtrodden -—Sam Zell’s L.A.Times; a twenty-year condition which would make even the worst slums of India proud. What is paripatetic Police Chief Bratton’s take on this ? Or that of Mayor Antonio V. ? Who knows ? Call Ramona Ripston; she runs the ACLU in LA. JFK signed the bill to empty the nut houses. He got killed before signing the bill to provide their medication.

December 30, 3:22 am | [comment link]
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