Letters to the Editor

Aftermath: Mental health system distressed

As a former CDMHP (County Designated Mental Health Professional) and Minority Mental Health Specialist, I feel obligated to respond to Linda Thom’s concerns (Letters, June 26) regarding failures in our system that could have prevented this double-murder, suicide tragedy in Freeland.

The mental health system is so glutted with clients, workers cannot see the forest for the trees. There are too few therapists trained to evaluate those persons who are truly a danger either to themselves, others, or unable to care for themselves. Further, many mentally ill clients are receiving medication without therapy. Therefore, the severity of their mental stability are neither identified efficiently, nor dealt with.

Too much time and money is spent on case-management. This practice centers around maintaining the mentally ill within their communities. It was meant to prevent people from arbitrarily institutionalizing relatives. However, many who work within our mental agencies, community agencies, and legal sectors are quite aware that there are clients who should be institutionalized.

I continue to be distressed at the price our communities pays for professional ignorance, not only in dollars but in the countless numbers of victims — at what price? I retired because of the overwhelming stress the system demanded in order to maintain their existence. Being a CDMHP meant putting out fires. “Treat them and street them” was our motto. Answer to the demands of other agencies and organizations unskilled in the knowledge it took for us to become qualified to perform our jobs.

Twenty four hour shifts — facing the unknown. Then, the hardest part — wondering if you made the right decision. The upside being that you gave someone therapy, spent time with them, and ultimately helped them through their crisis. Many insurance companies will not cover therapy except for emergency services. On the other hand, clients receiving case-management services are covered based on unskilled and unprofessional practices designed to keep them in “the system.” If further cost-cutting is necessary, the result is massive layoffs and program cuts. How else can mental health agencies project future budgets?

As for the illegal alien situation, our legal systems are afraid of confronting any person of color. It is also not timely to confront a person known to be a citizen of another country. This may be motivated by fear of being sued for discrimination or bad press. Or, in the case of law enforcement, lack of manpower. Both are unfortunate and dangerous.

There are too many mental health-related calls and not enough law enforcement deputies or officers. Why? Because they are under-funded and under-staffed. They, too, are tired of putting out fires.

Wake up mental health, legal systems, and other human service organizations. Know who your clients or patients are by consulting specialists. Your failure to deliver appropriate services could result in major lawsuits.

Joyce (Konek) Fruik

Coupeville

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