Photo by Issac Geesling

Weekend Legislative Roundup.

The following bills that seek to enhance the well-being of individuals and families with chronic mental illness in Arizona continue to move forward. Here’s where they stand and how you can help:

SB1059 – Clarifies current law requires that a person with mental illness and substance use diagnosis must be evaluated and not summarily dismissed due to the presence of drugs. The intention is to make treatment consistent.

Status: Passed in the Senate. Passed out of House Committees, currently waiting to go to House floor for a vote. Email all House members.

Action: Call and/or email your AZ Representatives. Email the Governor’s office and ask for his support.

SB1142 – A tax incentive bill for employers who hire people with serious mental illness. Sets the credit amount at $2 for each hour worked by an SMI employee during the calendar year, not to exceed $20,000, tax-paying business owner. Government agencies excluded.

Status: Passed in the Senate. To be heard in the House Appropriations Committee this Tuesday, 3/30, for a vote.

Action: Call and/or email the House Appropriations Committee members (emails below) and ask them to support.  Call and/or email your AZ Representatives. Email the Governor’s office and ask for his support.

SB1716 – Currently, only 55 patients from Maricopa County can be at the Arizona State Hospital (ASH) — even when there are empty beds. ASH will no longer limit the number of patients who can be admitted based on the county where the patient lives. Admission should be based on clinical needs.

Reforms the existing ASH Governing Body (Governing Body) to operate without conflicts of interest: Most members will NO LONGER be employees of the Department of Health Services, which oversees ASH. Requires that the Chair of the Independent Oversight Committee (IOC) be invited to Board meetings and provided quarterly reports about human rights violations with patients. Improves transparency — requires Governing Body file annual reports with the Legislature that describe the treatment provides and what is working.

Patient safety improvement: ASH has an outmoded video surveillance system that puts patient safety at risk. We need a better surveillance system.  The bill requires ASH to maintain a surveillance system with video and audio and appropriates $500,000 to do so. ASH administration has requested a new system last year and is currently in a Request for Proposal.

Status: Passed in the Senate. To be heard in the House Appropriations Committee this Tuesday, 3/30, for a vote.

Action: Call and/or email the House Appropriations Committee members (emails below) and ask them to support. Call and/or email your AZ Representatives. Email the Governor’s office and ask for his support.

SB1029 & SB1030 – Psychiatric security review board (PSRB) bill, SB1029, requires more information and reports for the Board to ensure that it treats patients fairly and protects the public. The Board now operates without enough information on patients when it makes decisions. The bill has a retired judge become the Chair, so the Board operates by fair rules.

Because the PSRB Board opposes any changes and claims that it operates perfectly, SB1030 ends the PSRB and sends the functions that the PSRB performs to the Superior Court in each county. This saves the state money and will ensure that patients get a fair hearing in front of a judge who follows the law.

Status: Passed in the Senate. Passed in the House Committees, waiting to go to the House floor for a vote.

Action: Call and/or email your AZ Representatives. Email the Governor’s office and ask for his support.

Here is a link to find AZ Representative’s email:

The Arizona Peoples Lobbyist – Your Voice – Your Choice (azpeopleslobbyist.com)

SB1786 – Prisoner Mental Health Transition Bill.

Status: Passed in the Senate. Passed in the House Committees, waiting to go to the House floor for a vote.

Action: Call and/or email your AZ Representatives. Email the Governor’s office and ask for his support.

SCR1018 – A Concurrent Resolution expresses support for community-based efforts to provide clinically appropriate care to individuals with chronic serious mental illness.

Status: Passed in the Senate. Passed in the House Committees, waiting to go to the House floor for a vote.

Action: Call and/or email your AZ Representatives. Email the Governor’s office and ask for his support.

Here is a link to find AZ Representative’s email:

The Arizona Peoples Lobbyist – Your Voice – Your Choice (azpeopleslobbyist.com)

ACMI would like to thank Senator Nancy Barto, the sponsor of these bills, for her tireless and heroic work on behalf of individuals and families living with chronic mental illness in Arizona! When you have an opportunity, please thank her as well.

We realize that everyone’s life is full; if you are unable to call or email but still want to help the chronically mentally ill, you can partner with us financially. ACMI is a group of dedicated volunteers; no one receives a salary. Your gift will go directly toward improving the well-being of people living with chronic mental illness.

Please contact your legislators by this Monday morning.

Here is a link to find their email:

The Arizona Peoples Lobbyist – Your Voice – Your Choice (azpeopleslobbyist.com)

Or call the Governor’s office at 1-602-542-4331 or email engage@az.gov

House Appropriations Committee members:

César Chávez                     cchavez@azleg.gov

Regina E. Cobb                 rcobb@azleg.gov

Charlene R. Fernandez     cfernandez@azleg.gov

Randall Friese                    rfriese@azleg.gov

Jake Hoffman                    jhffman@azleg.gov

Steve Kaiser                       skaiser@azleg.gov

John Kavanagh                  jkavanagh@azleg.gov

Aaron Lieberman             alieberman@azleg.gov

Quang H. Nguyen             qnguyen@azleg.gov

Becky A. Nutt                     bnutt@azleg.gov

Joanne Osborne               josborne@azleg.gov

Judy Schwiebert               jschwiebert@azleg.gov

Michelle Udall                   mudall@azleg.gov

 

Your partnership in helping the chronically mentally ill and their families in our state is so appreciated, thank you!

Thank you,

 ACMI Board

Photo Sky Schaudt/KJZZ
The entrance of the Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix.

Action Alert: Individuals living with chronic mental illness need your help!

Please take a few minutes to call and email members of the House Health and Human Services committee (contact information below) to urge them in supporting SB1716 that will be heard in an HHS Hearing this coming Monday, 3/22.

SB 1716 is a short, simple bill to help the AZ State Hospital (ASH) provide (a) better care for the sickest mentally ill individuals in Arizona, and (b) more transparency to the public and legislature for how care is provided at the hospital.

ASH will no longer be able to limit the number of patients who can be admitted based on the county where the patient lives. Currently, only 55 patients form Maricopa County can be at ASH. — even when there are empty beds:

  • ASH offers the highest level of psychiatric care.  Admission should be based on clinical need, like dangerousness to self and others and beds used for the sickest psychiatric patients statewide.
  • Nobody should be excluded from treatment because of their zip code.

Reforms the existing ASH Governing Body (Governing Body) to operate like a private board and without conflicts of interest:

  • Majority of members will NO LONGER be employees of the Department of Health Services, which oversees ASH.
  • Requires that the Chair of the Independent Oversight Committee (IOC) be invited to Board meetings and provide quarterly reports about human rights violations with patients.
  • Improves transparency — requires Governing Body file annual reports with the Legislature that describe the treatment provides and what is working.

Patient safety improvement:

  • ASH has an outmoded video surveillance system that puts patient safety at risk.  Need a better surveillance system.  The bill requires ASH to maintain a surveillance system with video and audio and appropriates $500,000 to do so.

A better run State Hospital protects public safety and health by getting treatment to our most mentally ill patients ad holding the hospital accountable.

Sample of suggested email and/or talking points for phone call. Please tailor your own message using one or more of the following sentences:

Dear Representative _______,

I ask that you support SB 1716. We need to improve our State Hospital and protect the public.

All beds available there should be open to the sickest people in Arizona.

We need better accountability at the hospital because of the dangerousness of the people treated there.

Respectfully,

_______________

House of Representatives, Health and Human Services Committee members contact information:

Joanne Osborne, Chairman                 JOsborne@azleg.gov                      (602) 926-3181

Regina E. Cobb, Vice-Chairman           RCobb@azleg.gov                           (602) 926-3126

Kelli Butler                                             KButler@azleg.gov                          (602) 926-5156

Joseph Chaplik                                     JChaplik@azleg.gov                        (602) 926-3436

Randall Friese                                       RFriese@azleg.gov                          (602) 926-3138

Alma Hernandez                                  AHernandez@azleg.gov                  (602) 926-3136

Jacqueline Parker                                 JParker@azleg.gov                           (602) 926-3375

Amish Shah                                           AShah@azleg.gov                            (602) 926-3280

Justin Wilmeth                                      JWilmeth@azleg.gov                      (602) 926-5044

Again, SB1716 is slated to be heard in the House HHS Committee on Monday, 3/22.

Please contact the HHS members by 10 am Monday morning.

Or call the Governor’s office at 1-602-542-4331 or email engage@az.gov

Your partnership in helping the chronically mentally ill and their families in our state is so appreciated, thank you!

ACMI Board

 Courtesy of Unsplash photography

   Every parent’s worst nightmare is the thought of possibly losing a child in an accident or to a serious illness. An even greater fear is the thought of losing a child to an abduction and never knowing where that child is or who the child is with. Moreover, no parent wants to see their child abused or to be an abuser.

     I have lost a child……. to a serious mental illness and addictions.

     I have lost a child to multiple “accidents” in the current mental health system in which I have tried to participate. I go to bed every night not knowing where my child is or who she is with. I face each new day with the fear that she did not survive the night. Every day I brainstorm and research what else I might do to find her and get her to a hospital where she can be helped. Occasionally, I get a call from a police officer who has had an encounter with her, usually for trespassing or loitering.  The call is a result of recent missing persons’ report that I filed. I am told that she is “okay” by the officer, even if she is demonstrating psychotic behavior, dressed in appropriately for the weather, calling 911 because she believes that she has been run over by a truck, or staying in settings where assaults are frequent.

     Because she has not been given proper care and limits are placed on those of us (family, primarily) who are trying to help her, the results are as follows:  multiple arrests, jail time, cruel solitary confinement, car accidents, fines, court hearings, emergency calls to police and fire departments, hospitalizations for both physical and psychiatric treatment, rehabs, halfway houses, domestic violence calls, petitions, court ordered appointments at clinics, dental repairs from assaults, disease, property damage, job losses, and loss of all meaningful relationships of friends and family.

     My “child” is an adult who is persistently and acutely disabled due to mental illness and addictions.  I am told over and over by physicians, law enforcement officers, counselors and friends, “She is an adult. You can’t force her to get help.” “She has to hit bottom first.” “We can’t tell you if she has been admitted.” “She can be talking to a light pole, but unless she has threatened to harm herself or others, we cannot admit her.” “Since she is already under court ordered treatment, you cannot petition her for pick-up. She has been evaluated already. She just needs to show up for her meds at her assigned clinic.” These comments demonstrate the lack of understanding when it comes to mental health and addiction issues. People who are not thinking clearly cannot make decisions in their best interest. Their brain is lying to them and sending a false narrative. Hitting bottom often means death. What good is court ordered treatment, if once you get it you cannot be evaluated again should you have a setback in your mental stability! Most severely mentally ill people have a very difficult time managing their own medications and even getting to all of the appointments without assistance.

     Based upon calls from the police, my daughter is most likely living in a box on the streets of Phoenix and has been there at least 10 months.  Previous to her leaving my home, she had lived with me for a year. It was one of the nicest years we had spent with her. She had developed a few close friends, interacted with family again, paid off most of her fines, obtained a job, bought a car, traveled with us, and went to all of her appointments at the court appointed clinic.

     There were two things that I think made the most difference in our daughter’s progress: parental involvement and a longer stay at the mental health hospital initially. Obtaining a lawyer and gaining temporary guardianship was the first step in being able to be more involved in her care. Additionally, the longer stay at the psychiatric hospital allowed her to be evaluated thoroughly, stabilized, and prescribed the correct medication. It was amazing to see the difference in how she interacted with us and life in general following her hospital stay. Previous stays in the hospital had been so short (3-7 days) resulting in her return to the streets.

     What failed? Why are we back where we started over a year ago? I believe when a medication change took place through her clinic there was a set-back in her mental health at that time and her desire for meth increased. We (her legal guardians) once again admitted her to UPC due to psychotic behavior. She was then sent to a different hospital and there they changed her medication again rather than prescribe what she had previously taken successfully a year before. I believe if she had gone back to the same hospital and seen the same doctor, she would be in a different place now. Long term care offers a chance to stabilize and seeing the same doctor offers consistency in care. The out-patient clinics primarily serve as dispensaries of meds, not in-depth evaluation and continued care.  When we sought to renew guardianship, this process was dead on arrival because our paperwork had to be completed by a psychiatrist. All of her appointments at her court ordered clinic had been with the equivalent of a PA.

      We must increase the number of secure, mental health hospitals. Current numbers are grossly inadequate. The length of hospital stays must increase for the seriously mentally ill allowing time for proper evaluation, stabilization, medication, and a proper post hospital plan.   We need supervised housing for the SMI once released from the hospital as a protection for the patient, family and the general public. Currently, many SMI patients find housing in drug rehab settings which are not set up for the SMI population. Others return to the street or with family who are not always equipped to provide adequate supervision and support.

     For change to take place, we must not view mental illness/addictions any differently than we do someone with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, or delayed mental functions. We make sure that they are in a safe environment and decisions are made with their best interest at heart. The SMI are being neglected and not receiving the help they so desperately need. Just walk around downtown Phoenix to see how many of the SMI are living. We take care of stray dogs better than these precious human beings.

     I hope our daughter can soon get the help she needs before it is too late. We have lived the nightmare and I have only shared a brief summary of this past year, not the previous twenty years.

Anonymous Parent (in order to protect my daughter’s privacy)

 

These are the families that ACMI advocate for. They are the most vulnerable.

Thank you for attending our online webinars; if you missed it, you could find the webinar and slides on our website. You will need to create a free account to view the webinars and downloads.

Who Are We Treating (And Not Treating) And Why?

By Dr. Michael Franczak of Copa Healthcare on Population Health trends in Maricopa County. He brings decades of experience into the conversation.

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Thank you for attending our online webinars; if you missed it, you could find the webinar and slides on our website. You will need to create a free account to view the webinars and downloads.

What Psychiatrists Do To Conduct An Assessment and Make a Diagnosis in a Hospital or Urgent Care Setting?

Learn from the expert psychiatrist, Dr. Carol Olson, about Behavioral Health Assessments.

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Crisis Evaluation
Psychiatric evaluation and diagnosis

Upcoming online seminar:

Who Are We Treating (And Not Treating) And Why?

March 10, 2021, 6-7 PM (MST)

Come learn from Dr. Michael Franczak of Copa Healthcare on Population Health trends in Maricopa County. He brings decades of experience into the conversation.

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZclc-ysqTgvG9Cwq6lcdfpq8mLIl7mLxzvP

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    Here are my thoughts about the IMS exclusion and appropriate treatment of people with serious mental illness.  We need all the levels of care available in the continuum of care. Today in-patient care is significantly limited due to this archaic Medicaid rule.

     In today’s blog from Pete Earley, he refers to a report by Steven Eida, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and editor of City Journal, and Carolyn Gorman, a policy analyst on issues related to serious mental illness who has served as a board member of Mental Illness Policy Org., a nonprofit founded by the late DJ Jaffe.

     The Association for the Chronically Mentally Ill (ACMI) has championed the rights of the chronically mentally ill for more than three years.  Our focus has been on creating appropriate housing for people with chronic mental illness, in other words, those people with serious mental illness who are not adherent to the current treatments and policies available to them under our Arizona behavioral health system. This year, we made efforts to reform our state psychiatric hospital, the Arizona State Hospital (ASH). This article is directly on point and aligns perfectly with our goals in trying to make people realize that this group of non-adherent SMI, who we choose to call the chronically mentally ill, are not well served by relegating them to the usual treatments available in the community, but, instead, frequently need longer-term treatment in level 1 psychiatric hospitals.

    Also, after stability, when released to the community, they need more intensive supervision in order to treat their chronic psychiatric illness and have meaningful lives.

    In addition, an upcoming study by the Morrison Institute, sponsored by ACMI, found that there were significant savings to the behavioral health system because of the decreased costs that resulted when this notch group of seriously mentally ill, the chronically mentally ill, are treated appropriately, safely, and humanely.

Charles Goldstein, MD

Pete Earley’s original article

Will Eliminating Old Rule Return “Snake pit” Hospitals Or Help Seriously Mentally Ill Americans Get Much Needed Long Term Care?

Photo by Elina Krima from Pexels

(2-26-21) A conservative think tank has joined a growing national chorus calling for an end of a federal rule that discourages states from building psychiatric hospitals and providing long-term, in-patient care for the seriously mentally ill.

The Manhattan Institute argues in a new report released this week that the Medicaid’s IMD Exclusion rule has outlived its usefulness and should be repealed.

President Trump’s President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice and the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee created by the Obama Administration also have called for dropping the rule.

What is the IMD Exclusion and why should you care?

It’s a rule that has been around since 1965 that discourages states from building and supporting large psychiatric hospitals and pushes them instead to provide community based treatment. The so-called “16 bed rule” accomplishes this by denying states Medicaid reimbursement for adults between the ages of 22-to-64 if they are treated in psychiatric hospitals and other facilities which have more than 16 beds. States must pay 100 percent of the cost of care for the seriously ill in most long-term psychiatric hospitals, compared to 50 percent for those treated in the community.

The new report’s authors, Stephen Eide and Carolyn D. Gorman, provide a thoughtful argument in favor of dumping the rule.

They document how difficult it is for parents and others to find hospital beds when someone is in the midst of a psychiatric crisis. It is not unusual for individuals to be turned away from emergency rooms or “boarded” in them for several days waiting for a hospital bed to become available. The lack of treatment beds also leads to individuals, who can’t get help, being arrested. The authors argue that Americans with serious mental illnesses simply can’t always get the long term help that they need in a community setting.

The 16 bed rule was enacted, in part, to put an end to warehousing patients in huge state hospitals, and those who support keeping it fear that state hospitals, once again, will become giant “snake pits” if the rule is repealed.

The authors of the Manhattan Institute report disagree.

They claim safeguards are in place now that weren’t years ago. Patients must be considered a danger to themselves or others before being held against their will in a state hospital. Many more treatment programs are available now than when state hospitals were the only choice. Federal laws, especially the Supreme Court’s Olmstead ruling, which requires individuals with mental illnesses be held in the least restrictive settings, will insure patients aren’t abused and forgotten in state hospitals. Plus, every state has a Protection and Advocacy Agency, specifically designed to investigate complaints about abuse in state hospitals and other long term facilities.

Modern psychiatric hospitals “are not designed as isolation wards” and “policies on seclusion and restraint are drastically changed” from the old days, the author’s wrote.

Opponents to dropping the rule warn that having Medicaid reimburse states for long term care in larger hospitals will blow up the Medicaid budget, costing as much as $1 trillion. They argue that states would reduce their spending on community care funding if given a choice between community programs and state hospitals.

The authors of the Manhattan Institute report argue the costs would be $5.4 billion spread over a ten year period and there would be no incentive for states to reduce spending on community programs.

Republicans attempted to eliminate the IMD Exclusion when former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa) drafted the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act. (Murphy was credited as an adviser to the Manhattan Institute Report.) But consumer groups, such as Mental Health America, and Disability Rights advocates strongly opposed ending the rule and Democrats successfully blocked Murphy’s language when his bill was incorporated into the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016.

Channeling the late D. J. Jaffe, who was a contributor at the Manhattan Institute, the authors argue that community based mental health services simply fail to help the seriously mentally ill who need long-term care to recover. Community services are failing this group, they argue, partly because of where they are directing their resources and efforts.

“As the number of diagnoses has expanded – and the number of Americans diagnosed at some point in their lifetimes with a mental disorder has increased – the number of claimants on public mental health resources has increased.”

In other words, what Dr. E. Fuller Torrey warned decades ago remains true.

We prefer to spend limited tax dollars and devote time to helping the “worried well” rather than those who need treatment the most.

You can read the full Manhattan Institute report here.

(Do you believe the IMD Exclusion should be dropped? Have you had trouble securing a hospital bed for someone in crisis? Would ending it hurt community services and turn back the clock to “snake pit” hospitals? Let me know your thoughts on my Facebook page.)

About the report’s authors:

Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal. He researches state and local finance and social policy questions such as homelessness and mental illness. He has written for many publications, including National Review, New York Daily News, New York Post, New York Times, Politico, and Wall Street Journal. He was previously a senior research associate at the Worcester Regional Research Bureau. Eide holds a B.A. from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Boston College.

Carolyn D. Gorman is a policy analyst on issues related to serious mental illness and has served as a board member of Mental Illness Policy Org., a nonprofit founded by the late DJ Jaffe. She was a senior project manager at the Manhattan Institute for mental illness policy and education policy. Gorman served on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and The Hill. Gorman holds a B.A. in psychology from Binghamton University and will graduate with an M.S. in public policy from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University in 2021. Twitter: @CarolynGorm

From the report:

Medicaid’s IMD Exclusion was crafted for an entirely different era. During the last half-century, America built a system of community-based mental health services that did not exist in 1965. Income-support programs for the disabled, assertive community treatment, clubhouse programs, supportive housing, assisted outpatient treatment, supported employment, peer support services—these either did not exist in the 1950s, or they operated on a much smaller scale than now. Nevertheless, a small subset of severely mentally ill individuals still needs inpatient treatment on a short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term basis. The IMD Exclusion inhibits those individuals’ access to medically appropriate care. ..

Arizona State Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Association of the Chronically Mentally Ill is focused on the sickest group within the SMI population. This group is non-compliant with treatment and often afflicted with anosognosia or the lack of ability to perceive the realities of one’s own condition. There are a number of systemic issues within our public systems that impact this target group. One such issue is the 55 bed limit at the Arizona State Hospital, which was created to incentivize the state to create community-based programs. Long past the usefulness of that policy, Josh Mozell’s November 30th, 2020 article in the Capitol Times help to explain some of the fallout of this policy, and the reasons the 55-bed limit should be eliminated.

   Solving the problems of our broken mental health system often seems so overwhelming that work does not begin. However, there are narrow solutions with broad implications that can be implemented. One such solution is ending Arizona’s long-standing bed limitation placed upon our state hospital.

   It may surprise many to learn that Arizona still has an operational mental asylum. Opened in 1887, it is now known as the Arizona State Hospital. The purpose of the State Hospital is and has always been to provide care for the most mentally ill in our community. For many in that group, months, if not years, of long-term programming is necessary for real recovery. That being the case, the State Hospital becomes the only place in Arizona where they have a chance for meaningful improvement.

   However, the hospital is nearly inaccessible for Maricopa County’s residents due to an arbitrary 55-bed limitation. To provide perspective, health policy experts estimate that a community needs between 40 and 60 beds per 100,000 to meet the demand for state hospital beds. In Maricopa County, however, for those who are civilly committed, we have one bed per 100,000.

   Why? In 1981, a path-breaking class-action lawsuit, Arnold v Sarn, was filed on behalf of Maricopa County’s mentally ill. The litigation lasted over 30 years, finally settling in 2014. During that time, the case revolutionized Arizona’s mental health system. But in 1995, the parties entered into a plan to resolve the litigation. In that stipulation, the parties agreed there would be a cap of 55-beds at the Arizona State Hospital for civilly committed patients from Maricopa County. Due to this limitation, the only pathway to gaining admission is to fail repeatedly, in spectacular fashion, and do it for years.

   The failure looks like this: Because this group of chronically mentally ill does not receive the long-term treatment needed, they transition from one crisis to the next, experiencing more serious decompensation. This results in a constant recycling through the various public systems at an enormous cost to the taxpayers. Year by year the person is increasingly overcome by the disease. There are persistent police and fire interactions, multiple visits to emergency rooms, long medical hospital stays, arrests for petty crimes, and, unfortunately too often for serious crimes. Then there is the involvement of the judicial system, homeless shelters, and the penal system. Rinse and repeat – the cycle continues for years. For this group of people, the system is not just broken, but inhumane.

   The bed limitation also has many downstream effects. For instance, those who need access to Arizona State Hospital do not disappear simply because there is not an available bed. Instead, they consume scarce mental health resources, which otherwise could be provided to others in need. The most serious manifestation is in our civil commitment system. To be hospitalized through civil commitment, a patient receives a bed at Valleywise Health, the one hospital system licensed to carry out the process in Maricopa County. The average length of stay during the process is 22 days, and, during those 22 days, the patient receives very good psychiatric care. But, we have just 343 beds in Maricopa County, which is far less than what is needed to serve the population. Due to that bed shortage, our system is already limited in its ability to treat those who need help.

  The Arizona State Hospital 55-bed limit pours gasoline on a fire. To keep the patient and the public safe, Valleywise is often forced to keep the patient for months until the patient stabilizes, without the infrastructure for true long-term treatment. Therefore, despite maximizing the stabilization possible at a short-term hospital, it is not enough. The patient is often back at Valleywise within weeks after release. This routine can continue for years until the patient finally fails enough for State Hospital consideration.

   Commonly, the amount of failing will total 1,000 days or more at Valleywise – in addition to visits to the ER, jail, crisis centers, etc. Therefore, on just one patient who would be most appropriately treated at Arizona State Hospital, 45 patients could receive a 22-day hospital stay at Valleywise. Consequently, the bed shortage is made worse, individuals do not receive care, and scarce state resources are exhausted. This extends the system to the point of breaking, which cannot be sustained.

  Our system is broken in many ways. But again, there are many narrow fixes with broad positive implications which start the process of improvement. This is one of those narrow fixes. The 55-bed cap is a monumental failure – it should be eliminated.

Josh Mozell is a lawyer with Frazer, Ryan, Goldberg & Arnold, L.L.P.

Josh Mozell

ACMI President

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Photograph by Laurie Goldstein on streets of San Diego August 23rd, 2020

It seems to be tragic that individuals suffering from the symptoms of serious mental illness must try and fail oral medication therapies before qualifying for long-acting injectables. Besides being much more effective and efficient in medicine delivery, adherence increases significantly. Physicians are well aware that people do not take medications as directed. Lack of compliance in taking medicines as prescribed holds for physical health and mental health treatments. A person suffering from bronchitis may stop taking their antibiotics after five days of a 10-day course once they are feeling better. So, it is not surprising that many people struggle with adherence to daily or twice daily oral medications.

The issue of non-adherence has dire consequences if the condition involves the brain and psychosis. Repeated psychotic events can result in a change in the baseline. According to McKnight (2017) “Researchers now stage schizophrenia. Just like cancer, the more advanced the stage, the worse the outcome,” said Dr. Nasrallah, the Sydney W. Souers Endowed Chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at Saint Louis University, told his audience. “The additional damaging effects of the second episode is what leads to clinical deterioration and can start the process of treatment resistance. But if no psychotic episodes are allowed to recur after the first episode, many patients can return to their baseline functioning, such as school or work.”

As data mount confirming the neurodegenerative effects of psychotic episodes in schizophrenia, one expert urges psychiatrists to think of psychosis as a “brain attack” which, like heart attacks, must be prevented from recurring. McKnight (2017)

According to McKnight (2017) “Schizophrenia doesn’t have to be progressive neurodegenerative unless patients relapse again and again, but that happens all the time because we give our patients pills they don’t take as prescribed. There are many reasons for poor adherence,” Henry A. Nasrallah, MD, said at the meeting held by Global Academy for Medical Education.

 By Laurie Goldstein 

ACMI

 

See more surprising schizophrenia statistics, including:

  • Rise in cost related to relapse
  • Number of hospital beds available for patients
  • Connection between adherence and relapse

https://www.medscape.com/infosites/285165.1/isarticle-1?src=0_nl_sm_0&uac=371324FZ

McKnight, W. (2017, July). First-episode psychosis is a ‘brain attack,’ and LAIs can prevent recurrence, expert says. Clinical Psychiatry News2017(1), 1.

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Photo by Michael Jin & Photo by Camilo Jimenez on Unsplash

Recently, when we were still permitted to congregate socially, I was at a Friday night service in my synagogue when a young woman in the back row emitted a frightening scream, fell, and began convulsing. During her seizure, she hurt herself by falling and hitting her head (danger to self) and broke a chair nearby when she fell on it (property damage). Of course, paramedics were called who attended to her and eventually transported her to a hospital, whereupon I lost contact with this particular young woman and her continued treatment. At no point were the police involved with this manifestation of symptoms of an otherwise presumably well-controlled person with epilepsy. Being an emergency physician myself, I can only tell you that my experience with people with seizure disorders being brought to the emergency room is that they are never subsequently taken to jail.  The options are either hospitalization or, more frequently, discharged home on appropriate medications with appropriate follow up.

 

In another hypothetical scenario, a “brittle diabetic,” usually well-controlled on his insulin, passes out while driving and knocks over a Postal box when he runs into it with his car (a federal crime!).  Police and paramedics show up; the patient is taken to an emergency room where it is ascertained that he indeed has diabetes and had become hypoglycemic. The patient is either admitted to the hospital or sent home on appropriate medications with appropriate follow-up.

 

In neither of these cases detailed above, were the patients assumed to be criminals.  People exhibiting symptoms from a chronic disease are treated appropriately for their symptoms. Their underlying illness and hospitalization, if needed, are not a problem; there are plenty of inpatient beds for them.

 

Let’s contrast this with what might have happened if this was a person with serious mental illness attending the same Sabbath service and became symptomatic, started flailing around, and did some property damage as this woman did. Police and/or paramedics would have been called. The patient may or may not have been taken to an emergency room and may or may not have gone to jail because society draws a fine line (not so fine) between apparent “medical” conditions and “psychiatric” conditions. Unfortunately, in a behavioral health crisis, when people become symptomatic because of their underlying disease, the behaviors related to their disease can suddenly be considered a crime. Also, if it was adjudged that this patient needed further treatment on an inpatient basis, they would have found this to be nearly impossible as there is an extremely limited number of inpatient psychiatric beds in the state of Arizona.

 

Currently, experts recommend approximately one psychiatric inpatient bed for every 250,000 people. In Maricopa County alone, there are about 4 1/2 million people; this equates to an inpatient psychiatric capacity that should exist of around 1,800 inpatient beds. At present, in Maricopa County, there are just 55 beds available in the public system for long-term psychiatric treatment. The inadequate number of limited long-term inpatient psychiatric beds is a figure so egregiously deficient that the reader might well be shocked that this is the truth; shamefully, it is.

 

We need to correct this appalling lack of inpatient psychiatric therapy currently available for the Seriously Mentally Ill.

Charles Goldstein, MD

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