Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Book, Same Story

This author is one of the newest ones who have a family story about mental illness. But what he says in his interview is the current bottom line in America. I am proud that we are not just locking-up our loved ones, yes I had one as well, but the liberal laws that changed things in the 1950's went too far to the other side of the spectrum. As Steve says, " It is good for the patient's rights may not be good for the family." He also addressed the issue of not being able to access patient records. The records are also held in confidence no matter what. Recently, one of my Special Ed. students was going through a manic phase and ran away from school at lunch time. He was also cursing and throwing books in the classroom. While I know that other students could possibly get hurt, it was apparent that his meds. were not correct. The teachers were very upset because the administration was going to have to let him stay in the regular ed. classroom because of his rights. He has the same rights as any adult on the street, until he actually hurts himself or someone else, then there is not much any official can do to help him. Most lay people do not understand this. One of the teachers said to me"Doing nothing is not an option". I told her that doing nothing is actually an option because our hands are tied. His mother also took him to the ER one weekend because he was still showing manic episodes at home with her, but when they got to the ER all the kid did was sleep, so the ER personnel could not keep him or do much to help her at the time. She was very upset. If the medical staff does not "witness" the behavior first hand, then what the mother said was happening at home is just hearsay.

Washington Post journalist Steve Luxenberg learned he’d had an aunt, institutionalized for mental illness in 1940 and hidden by his mother for more than half a century. His new book, Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret , tells the story.

How has our approach to mental illness changed since the 1940s?
We don’t put people in mental institutions at nearly the rate we did then. In 1955, there were 550,000 patients. The country’s population is nearly double now, so you’d expect a million today. Instead we have fewer than 50,000.

Why is that?
New medicines allowed people to be treated at home. Then, later, the legal standard changed. In the ‘40s, many states had a legal obligation to give “treatment and care” to their “defectives.” Now, you cannot be forced into an institution unless you are a danger to yourself or others.

And that’s a good thing, right?
Yes. But what’s good for the patient’s rights may not be good for the family. The family might not be able to care for a patient whose behavior is erratic. That’s the ongoing conflict.

You had trouble accessing your aunt’s medical records. Why?
Medical-records management people are in charge of saying “no” to protect people’s privacy. But if we shut off medical records of people long deceased, we’re locking up information that families and medical providers ought to know. As scientists learn more and more about the genetic basis of all kinds of illnesses, access to records is an issue we’re going to have to confront.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Right Direction

I vote for my tax dollars to be used for programs such as this. This will help a lot of mentally ill persons get off the street, if they will take advantage of it.

Recovering through housing

AT HOME: Leslie Moreno shows off her typewriter collection at Daniel's Village on Friday. photo by Brandon Wise.
September 12, 2009
SANTA MONICA BLVD — A trio of antique typewriters sit in a line atop a desk, showcased in exhibition yet still living out their created purpose, each holding a piece of paper from the platen, containing the thoughts of a 23-year-old woman.

"That one types in cursive," the woman said, pointing to the device the farthest from her.

A proud smile comes across her face as she then pulls open a drawer, revealing two very special typewriters, picking up a hard case that holds one from the 1920s, purchased from her fiancé who helped the young woman begin her growing collection.

From the books on the shelf to the typewriters on the desk to the black shawl draped over the window, these are the items that make the small room inside the former Village Motel feel more like home for Leslie Moreno, who this summer was one of eight local young adults suffering from mental illnesses to take up residence in the new Daniel's Village

"I feel safe," Moreno, who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder, said. "Being able to have my things is important to me."

Daniel's Village, the latest project of nonprofit organization Step Up on Second, celebrated its grand opening on Friday, having the distinction of being the only permanent supportive housing program in the Los Angeles area for young adults — 18-28 years old — who experience the initial symptoms of mental illness.

The program was spawned from Daniel's Place, a drop-in center geared toward the same demographic that has served more than 400 clients since it was founded 11 years ago, offering support groups for clients and families and individual consultations.

Located at 2624 Santa Monica Blvd. in an old motel, the $2.4 million project involved converting eight old units into dormitory-style rooms, each coming with its own bathroom and kitchenette. Several original pieces of the motel remain, including the old "Village Motel" and office signs, the latter of which hangs outside the resident manager's unit.

The tenants are required to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for housing, being both homeless and suffering from a mental illness.

Bulldog Realtors
The idea for a permanent supportive housing program to supplement the services at Daniel's Place was originally conceived about four years ago but faced several roadblocks on its way to completion, including opposition from neighbors in Sunset Park where it was originally proposed to be located near John Adams Middle School and its new neighbors because of the proximity to McKinley Elementary School.

The organization takes a housing first approach when it comes to treating its clients, finding that homelessness is often one of the biggest obstacles to recovery.

"We're really providing a solution to homelessness in the city," Tod Lipka, the CEO of Step Up on Second, said. "It's all about people moving in and people having a home for the first time in their adult life."

It was earlier this year when Moreno realized that she needed help, having essentially isolating herself in a bedroom for three months.

An independent person, she said it was difficult to take the first step toward recovery.

It started at a bus stop in Santa Monica.

Moreno sat at the stop crying when a stranger asked if she could do anything to help. What she received was a referral to see Ed Edelman, the Santa Monica "homeless czar."

That led to a series of referrals that brought Moreno to Daniel's Place in May.

Today Moreno has resumed taking courses at the California Healing Arts College, hoping to become a massage therapist.

There are still days that are worse than others, but Moreno is thankful regardless that she took that first step, the first step out of the room she was holed up in for three months, and the first step toward recovery.