Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Your tax dollars and hospital closures ...

"Deinstitutionalization is a thing of the past" – at least that is what most people think.

But, in fact, psychiatric hospital closures have proceeded at a furious pace over the last 15 years. There were so few beds when this new assault started that the people who remain in institutions are those who really need intensive care. Some can be “integrated” with sufficient support, but for others, life becomes a living hell once they are “freed.”

There are many factors driving the closures, but the most egregious is that the very groups that are paid by the federal government to “protect” the mentally ill, Protection and Advocacy (P&As) are the ones forcing many of the closures.

And when the doors are closed, the displaced residents are on their own.

In his book Crazy, Pete Earley investigates the tragic life and death of Deidra Sanbourne, the named plaintiff in the Florida P&A 1988 suit to close a hospitals (pg. 108 – 207).

The Bazelon Center, another group heavily funded by the federal government, joins many of these suits … and they aren’t satisfied with closing hospitals. In New York, Bazelon brought a suit to close boarding homes. In Connecticut, Bazelon brought a suit to get the mentally ill out of nursing homes. Where do they expect seriously ill people to live?

One need only read about M., who was placed in his own apartment when Harrisburg State Hospital closed. The P&A was nowhere to be found when M. ended up lying on a sidewalk – he was scared of his apartment.

For years, these federally funded “advocates” have imposed their own values on people who don’t have the resources to live independently. Rather than advocating to improve conditions in hospitals, boarding homes, and nursing facilities – they try to close them down.

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