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A Mental Health Checkup

Jeff Campbell

Posted on September 16, 2018 08:24

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The persistent neglect of the mental health crisis in America has been long and has run deep. But some states like Virginia are showing progress, albeit slow progress.

Outside of the aftermath of a tragedy like a mass shooting, the continuing mental health problems of America are largely ignored. Fortunately, there are countless mental health advocates continuing to push for change and some states, like Virginia, have been taking action. Hopefully these efforts will continue and expand until we can begin to see a real difference start to take place in our society.

Virginia’s efforts have been spearheaded by State Senator Creigh Deeds who, in 2013, lost his 24-year-old son in a tragic mental health related incident in which his son committed suicide after repeatedly stabbing his father. This followed a breakdown in the mental health system in which his son did not receive the appropriate action or care in a timely manner.

State Senator Deeds was selected to chair the Virginia General Assembly’s Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the state. As with anything that the government works on, action is slow, but at least some action is happening.

To start with, they began requiring Virginia’s State mental hospitals to accept in-patient intakes as a necessary last resort for those suffering acute psychiatric breakdowns if other means of care were not available. The subcommittee acknowledged in advance that this was just a first step, as the hospitals quickly reached near 100% capacity and far too many of the mentally ill were still being funneled into the criminal justice system to be housed in jails with no adequate care. Progress is also being made on that front with more jurisdictions establishing mental health docket systems within the courts to help steer the non-violent mentally ill into treatment programs instead of incarceration.

Regarding the Community Services Board outpatient care system for the state, they have been underfunded and overwhelmed for years and have lacked a standard care-set and standard capabilities to adequately assess and treat the mentally ill. Here too, the state is stepping in with increased funding and the subcommittee is working to establish standardized levels of care for the outpatient treatment.

These are small steps, but they are steps in the right direction. Having helped a family member with mental illness, I have experienced first-hand everything from the Community Services Board system to the State Mental Hospital system and can say first-hand, the changes being implemented in Virginia are much needed and crucial steps in the right direction. I hope that other states are finding their way towards improving their mental health treatment systems as well.

There will never be a perfect mental health treatment system on any level because mental illness is a highly complex and varied set of diseases where the afflicted are often incapable of understanding that they even have a disease. However, if we keep improving the treatment systems, we will save lives and make living a functional life possible for many that would have otherwise been forgotten by society to needlessly rot in a jail cell somewhere, and that is a worthy cause.

Jeff Campbell

Posted on September 16, 2018 08:24

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Source: Inc.com

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