Thursday, September 27, 2007

Building a “safe house” in an unsafe system

New Mexico is still one of only 8 states without AOT, and even as a handful of advocates continue to pat themselves on the back for fighting to stop the state from actually passing a compassionate treatment law, we see gems like this one.
"A lot of problems happen when families call 911 when a family member is in a mental health crisis," said Julie Medina, an advocate for Parents for Behaviorally Different Children. "More often than not, he ends up in jail. He's committed what's considered an act of domestic violence or is in a paranoid delusional state." [Valencia County News Bulletin, NM, Sep 26, 2007]

One solution being proposed now is to establish “safe houses.” This, and the suggestion about implementing “quick response teams,” both acknowledge the fact that some people with untreated severe mental illnesses need more than standard community services.

Yet proponents are quick to point out that the safe houses (which would cost the state upwards of $3 million) would be voluntary, noting that they would be places “where people can choose to go ... and take a few days to get out of crisis.”

That will be a nice additional service for those who understand they are ill and know they need help. But they won’t do a thing for those who steadfastly refuse help because they don’t think they need it.

Perhaps they should ask some family members what happens when their loved ones descend into psychosis that leads the families to call police.

If the person were capable of choosing to “get out of crisis,” you wouldn’t need safe houses.

Without the option for assisted outpatient treatment, the people who really need the safe houses are the family members, who are unable to get real help for the people they love until they become dangerous, and then must call police.

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