I’m always pleased to find outspoken observers in the mental health discussion. Today’s Star Tribune article begins to articulate the gaping hole in our communities (and the nation’s) approach to mental health. Much like child suicide and child sex abuse, we have avoided the mental health topic leading to the worst case of overbuilt prisons, unsafe streets, and terribly overwhelmed schools of any industrialized nation.
Senator Barb Goodwin told Abby Simons of the Star Tribune what a sad state it is when public advocates for mental health don’t speak as urgently for mental health services as the service providers forced to deal with mentally unhealthy people. Is it because the public doesn’t know how damaged abused and neglected children are that they don’t understand what happens to them and the people living with and among them? I refuse to believe that it is a lack of compassion.
Can you imagine what it’s like to be a juvenile/law enforcement officer, teacher, or other caregiver/service provider choosing between personal safety and protecting a disturbed child? I watched a 6th grade teacher, a man about my size whack a young girls head on a banister (hard) as she was trying to gouge his eyes out and biting his face. What college teaches defense tactics to grade school teachers?
My deepest sympathy lies with the birth / foster / adoptive parents unable to obtain mental health services for a violent behaviorally challenged child. What do you think went through the mind of Michael Swanson’s mother after years of rejection seeking mental health services for her boy when she found out that Michael had executed Sheila Myers & Vicky Bowman-Hall? We failed her, her son, and the tragically murdered girls and all their friends and families by not addressing the fact that mental health is being ignored in our community.
We read and watch daily about parents and caregivers trying to save children from themselves without help. Jeff Weise had asked his grandfather and community elders repeatedly for help before he murdered 14 people and committed suicide at Red Lake MN a few years ago. After the murders, Red Lake found money for a mental health facility to avoid further catastrophes.
Think about this; HCMC (a single Minneapolis hospital) admits 800 to 1000 emergency psychiatric visits each month (many of them children), there are no mental health hospitals for children in the metro (there are 3 children’s hospitals), I’ve been witness to too many traumatized children unable to find any kind of consistent quality mental health services and their unstoppable path to unhappiness and a dysfunctional lifestyle.
I’m of the opinion that DR Bruce Perry is spot on when he leaves the stage with the comment that, “25% of Americans are going to become special needs people by the end of this generation if we fail to address the mental health issues” he had spoken of in his presentation and that the costs of not attacking this problem with new ideas and money is exponentially more expensive than the one ten thousandth (4 million dollars requested for the diversion hubs is 1 ten thousandth of 42 billion dollars) of MN projected 2016-2017 budget. The return on this investment could be remarkable. Let’s go for it.
This financial pie ought not to be diverting resources from other proven mental health programs. Instead, it is time to divert money from punishment based institutions and wake up to the gaping hole in our health care system that has exacerbated public safety issues, driven recidivism in our prison systems to 70%, damaged our schools, and made life unbearable for thousands of Minnesota’s at risk children and the people they live and deal with.
Advocate for children, advocate for mental health, and advocate for the families and service providers working to help people lead meaningful lives. Thank you Senator Barb Goodwin for being outspoken about mental health services in Minnesota. Let’s the rest of us step up and speak our piece in support of mental health services for vulnerable MN citizens.