Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mental health crisis in New Orleans

The mental health crisis in the city has been highlighted due to the recent school shooting at Louisiana State University and eight shootings of police officers. The legislature has approved funds to address the issue, which is resulting in sending people with mental health issues to jail rather than getting them treatment.

Now, instead of being treated at Charity, mentally ill criminal suspects often are arrested, burdening the city's overtaxed judicial system, Rouse says. That worsens the problem for patients, who may not get proper medication or monitoring in jail, he adds. The patients usually suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression.

"When your regular mental health treatment system collapses, the patients become criminalized," Rouse says.

This article highlights a number of issues causing the crisis:

*Charity Hospital, which used to treat those with mental illnesses, is no longer open.
*Those with mental health issues are being jailed, rather than placed in appropriate treatment facilities
*More people have untreated mental health issues since Katrina
*There are more homeless people, a number of whom have untreated mental health issues

In other news, the House is scheduled to vote on a bill that would require insurers to provide equal coverage for mental health issues as for other conditions. {Update: the bill did pass in the House.}