Per our last post, we reported that in Oregon one-third of people treated for mental health diagnosis die before age 50. If you add “co-occurring disorders”, 89 percent of people treated for both mental
illness and substance abuse die before age 50. These numbers are in line with but also in excess of the national data regarding mortality and mental health.
It’s important to note that the figures are based on people who are receiving treatment. It’s also key to point out that these mortality statistics are getting worse not better. Add to these findings the fact that the most significant factor involved in recovery from mental illness is the length of time one has received treatment; that is to say that the longer one receives treatment, the less likely they are to recover.
What conclusions can be drawn?
- Mental health treatment is possibly preventing people from getting well and
- Our advances in treatment (new drugs, etc.) are killing us faster and faster.
Is anybody listening? Not much, it would appear. In Oregon we are building a new state hospital system at a cost of half a billion dollars. Our mental health treatment centers and support agencies are stuck in a time warp, oblivious to the facts, ignorant of the potential for recovery and blindly pushing the drugs that are killing us at a rate unprecedented for any other major public health issue.
(Note on the incredibly simpleminded continued reliance on large public institutions: I am of the opinion that as long as we have a system that believes that “some people just have to kept in institutions”, we will have a system that incarcerates a large number of people in these settings. It is only when we say that “no one should be treated this way” that we will begin the to take meaningful steps toward an effective community approach to treatment and support. The state hospitals will continue to suck up the majority of the resources at the expense of real treatment, real recovery and real self-determination. The old arguments that we need these places because of “court mandated patients”, “public safety” and the less acknowledged factor of state employees’ unions who resist the shift to community agencies and settings are are all red herrings and scare tactics with no real value in the discussion. Between 1987 and 1999, with fits and starts, the state dismantled it’s large public institutions for people with developmental disabilities (Fairview Hospital and Training Center/ FHTC, the last and largest). The biggest factor in the process taking so long was the repeated arguments mentioned above. In the end, these all turned out to be empty threats that had no value other than their ability to slow things down. Meaningful, secure and recovery based supports can be engineered in the community. Oregon has already done it before. Some of you may say that their is no correlation or equivalence between these populations but that is also just a lie perpetrated by those who would hold back the future. Fairview held hundreds of individuals with mental illness, hundreds who were court-mandated and thousands of unionized staff. It was once a small city; It is now a field of weeds and grass. I was there. I worked at part-time Fairview in the 1970s and was involved throughout the process of it’s closure.)
Norman DeLisle, MDRC
"With Liberty and Access for All!"
MDRC Website: http://www.copower.org/
LTC Blog: http://ltcreform.blogspot.com/