Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not In cooperation (compliance) with medical advice

It really comes as no surprise that people who are living on the street or some in-mates are there because they are not taking their prescribed meds. This is the same story over and over, not new news to the family and friends of the mentally ill.

Two thirds of prisoners nationwide with a mental illness were off treatment at the time of their arrest, according to a new study by Harvard researchers that suggests under-treatment of mental illness contributes to crime and incarceration.

The study, published today online in the American Journal of Public Health, found that about a quarter of inmates nationwide had a history of chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar illness and depression. Researchers analyzed data collected in 2002 and 2004 from local, state and federal correctional facilities.

While only one in three were taking medications for their illness at the time of their arrest, that number jumped to nearly two-thirds during incarceration, the researchers found

"For many of them, treatment of their mental illness before their arrest might have prevented criminality and the staggering human and financial costs of incarceration," said study author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard and a primary care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance's Cambridge Hospital campus.

Woolhandler said the findings portend significant problems for Massachusetts, where the Department of Mental Health last week laid off about 100 case managers -- nearly one quarter of the staffers who supervise people with severe mental illness and make sure they get the services they need.

State officials said about 3,000 clients would lose their current case managers. The layoffs were in response to the state's economic crisis.

"You are going to pay a much higher cost in the future prosecuting these people and putting them in jail, where they have a right to treatment," Woolhandler said. "I don�t know how good a treatment it is, but the taxpayers end up paying."

1 comment:

Hopeful Heart said...

Hi Liz!

This is a very interesting story!

The allegation I often hear is this: Those individuals suffering with various mental illnesses tend to "lack insight into things like "cause and effect!"

What might this "lack of insight" imply about the "powers that be" in Massachusetts State Government?

(I imagine some of the financial support for these community service probably came from federal sources?)

Another question brought to mind for me when reading your entry: I wonder how many inmates can afford access to meds and treatment when they are not "locked up?"

You write so well, your blog is a joy to read!:)

Thanks so much!
Hopeful Heart