Thursday, May 08, 2008

Increasingly Popular Skid Row

Employees of an Orange County hospital are accused of driving a psychiatric patient 42 miles, past multiple homeless facilities, in order to dump the man in L.A.’s Skid Row. If the allegation is correct, it would not be the first such reprehensible shirking of responsibility by a hospital.

A chief reason to not just dump a patient but to do so far away is to ensure that, when the almost inevitable next crisis occurs, the inadequately treated and discharged patients end up at someone else’s door, i.e., another hospital or a jail. Skid Row dumping in L.A. is emblematic of our mental health system’s failure, sometimes even blatant refusal, to take responsibility for the most problematic patients in the post-deinstitutionalization treatment framework.

For those with acute mental illnesses that psychiatric treatment providers do abandon to skid row, there remains the hope of getting help from L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Craig McClelland – a fitting symbol of our mental health system’s growing abdication of its responsibilities to criminal justice facilities, programs and personnel.