Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is the one place that can't say no

The Richmond Times Dispatch has been conducting an extensive expose on the suffering of the mentally ill in Virginia’s corrections system. But as the Times Dispatch’s editorial board laments, for many, it may seem “almost old news.” The most severely ill are increasingly being abandoned by a mental health system all too willing to shift the burden onto law enforcement and corrections. And so Richmond will be forced to invest even more resources for mental health care in its jails, while the mental health system continues to pick and choose who it will treat -a mental health system that cannot even be bothered to know what their treatment laws say.

Does this pattern sound familiar? You call for help for your loved one in crisis, only to be told that nothing can be done until they’re dangerous. So you wait. And worry. And hope that nothing terrible happens. Finally, there’s an incident and you call back, only to be told, “call the police, we don’t come when people are dangerous.”

Most would call that absurd. But for Virginia’s mental health system, it’s business as usual.

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