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  1. #1

    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    By JAY STAPLETON
    Staff Writer
    November 23, 2004

    DAYTONA BEACH -- Daniel Hale's parents say he is a man with the mind of a boy, a 32-year-old schizophrenic who sleeps with a teddy bear.

    For nearly two months he's been an inmate at the Volusia County Branch Jail, charged with aggravated battery.

    The former state hospital psychiatric patient had never been in trouble with the law before. But investigators say on Oct. 3 he held a razor to a group home caregiver's neck and said he wanted to drink her blood.

    Dottie Lewis of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Corp. says Hale, who has been moved to different mental health facilities over the years because of budget cuts, is a living example of how the penal system has become a holding place for the mentally ill.

    "They should not be using our jails as mental health treatment centers," Lewis said.

    Since the early 1990s, an increasing number of mentally ill adults have been imprisoned, according to the National Institute of Corrections, most likely because of the closing or downsizing of state psychiatric hospitals and lack of community support programs.

    The U.S. Department of Justice reports almost 284,000 mental health patients -- more than 16 percent of state prisoners -- have a mental illness or have been hospitalized overnight in a mental health facility. Mentally ill inmates also serve an average of 15 months longer than their non-mentally ill counterparts.

    As many as 5 percent of prison inmates have schizophrenia, according to the institute. The illness is characterized by delusions or hallucinations and inability to interpret reality. That figure is four times greater than the rate of schizophrenia in the general population.

    Hale's parents say their son spent four years at a state mental hospital in Jacksonville but was released because of budget cuts. They say he's been hospitalized 20 times and evaluated many times under the state's Baker Act, the law that allows police to take people to mental-health centers for examination when they pose a threat to themselves or others.

    Hale once lived at Act Corp.'s Big Tree Manor in South Daytona, but that 24-hour care center closed over the summer. He was living at the Oasis Care Center in Holly Hill, when the Oct. 3 incident occurred. Calls to the center were not returned.

    While he awaits a mental health evaluation to determine if he's competent to understand the felony charge against him, Hale's family and friends worry about his safety.

    "Being in jail, he will get worse," said his father, George Hale of South Daytona. "He needs to be in a treatment center. But getting him in one is the problem."

    Hale's court-appointed public defender, Scott Swain, said he isn't sure when the evaluation will be completed. If Hale is deemed incompetent, he will be sent to a state hospital or other facility for supervised treatment.

    "Before we can release him, we've got to find a place to put him," Swain said. "That's the problem."

    Members of the mental health community say there are few options for patients like Hale who need constant care.

    "If we had the services locally, there wouldn't be any need for additional state hospitals," said Wayne Dreggors, president of Act Corp.

    Dreggors said the community of local mental health providers and advocates have requested $4 million from the state Legislature for services next year. Some of the money would be used to allow 100 patients in Volusia and Flagler counties to become enrolled with a Florida Assertive Community Treatment team, a group of professionals who closely follow individual patients to anticipate and address their needs.

    Act's crisis center also is seeking to add 20 beds for people with mental illness and substance abuse problems.

    The first priority, Dreggors said, is to provide outpatient counseling services for those who can't afford to pay for it.

    Noisy and crowded jails can be a threatening place for the mentally ill, especially patients like Hale who have never been in a cell before, said Steven Young, psychiatrist for the Volusia and Flagler counties community treatment team.

    "It's not an ideal treatment environment," Young said. "I would say, going to jail is a life-changing event for anyone."

    Volusia County corrections director Kevin Hickey said about 18 percent of the inmates at the Branch Jail are on medication for mental illness. The inmates are housed based on behavior. Those who come to the jail acting "bizarre" are placed in a special unit of closely guarded individual cells until they are stabilized.

    "But then the goal becomes "to have them stabilized and in the general population as soon as possible," Hickey said.

    Young, who performs competency evaluations, said improvements could be made so suspects are screened by a psychiatrist before their arrest, or as soon as they get to the jail. Otherwise, patients like Hale fall victim to a system that is often slow and overburdened -- and expensive.

    Young said while county inmates cost about $50 a day to house, the expense of housing mentally ill inmates is about twice that.

    jay.stapleton @news-jrnl.com

    Did You Know?

    A teacher since age 14, Dorothea Lynde Dix, 1802-1887, became interested in helping the mentally ill when she taught a Sunday school class for women in a Massachusetts jail. She found mentally ill people being treated inhumanely and incarcerated along with hardened criminals, regardless of age or sex.

    · Dix surveyed every jail, poorhouse and house of correction in Massachusetts, delivering a report to the state legislature and persuading it to appropriate money for the state hospital for the insane. Taking her crusade to other states, Dix was instrumental in establishing 32 mental institutions in the United States.

    · During the Civil War, she was named superintendent of Women Nurses for the Union Army. After the war, she continued her work on behalf of the mentally ill until she was in her 80s.

    SOURCES: World Book Encyclopedia; Massachusetts State House Women's Leadership Project; National Women's Hall of Fame

    -- Compiled by News Researcher Peggy Ellis
    Article Source
    http://www.news-journalonline.com

  2. #2
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    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    I can believe that. My stepson's father ended up in a jail before he got sent to the hospital. They only put him in the hospital when they found him after he carved his arms and legs up with some sort of homemade sharp object.

  3. #3

    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    This is a great topic. Since I live in Florida, I need to be more politically active:

    Decades of inaction have led to moral, social and economic catastrophe. The time for revolution has come. How can you do your part?

    - Register for free site access and contact your local NAMI to begin the process of becoming a full NAMI member.
    - Give a tax-deductible gift to NAMI, and become a part of the help and healing that NAMI offers every day.
    -Contact your state and national representatives to ensure they are working for people with mental illness.
    - Fight stigma by monitoring biased portrayals of people with mental illness.
    - National Surveys: Register your opinion about a topic that interests you by answering one of our online surveys.
    http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?section=Take_Action
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  4. #4

    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    Ugh. I just read in the paper that our area has closed down two psychiatric wards, with three more set to close down. One of which is a psychiatric hospital! The situation is dire as there is now only one hospital that will be there to help people. And of course, they were closed down due to budget constraints. Man, that makes me so mad!

  5. #5

    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    Me too. Why do budget constraints always seem to hit the people hardest who have little or no political voice? The people our politicians are supposed to be protecting?

    And at the same time, there always seems to be more money for another football field or hockey rink...

  6. #6

    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    See this related story.

  7. #7

    Budget cuts pushing the mentally ill into prisons

    Daniel,

    I need to be more politically active too. It is the only way to make changes, but, I hate politics.

    One of my greatest insights from a therapist that I had when first dealing with this situation was this: I was so distraught, about how things I was experiencing, could even be happening in this day and age. It made no sense to me. I asked * why?* many times to many different people and no one could give me an answer, or, the attempted answers just did not satisfy my understanding from my perspective.

    What finally made sense was this therapists reply: "Because the only people who know what is happening are those who are directly experiencing it."

    I thought the same thing about sport events being highly supported over human needs, then wondered if the release of energy is preventing more violence so maybe not a bad thing after all.

    Cheers
    Judy

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