More Casualties

Willamette Week | “Shattered” | Willamette Week | April 1st, 2009

I was reading this on the way home the other day started to think.  Go read it.

I’ll wait.

Back?  OK.

It blows my mind and it scares the crap out of me at the same time.  Here we are, at a time when things are looking grim, yet the social safety net is going to be ripped out from underneath.  We already earned the dubious distinction of being America’s Most Unhappy/Depressed City, but at the same time the resources for treatment of this, not to mention the treatment of the schizophrenics, psychotics, bipolars, OCDers, among others, many of whom have a condition that precludes them from holding a job and having benefits for treatment is going away.  From the article…

“Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s proposed budget calls for a 100 percent cut in residential drug and alcohol treatment and a 90 percent cut in adult outpatient mental health services. He said he believed Medicaid expansions and the addition of more patients to the Oregon Health Plan would pick up some of the costs (see “Gray Anatomy,” WW, March 25, 2009), but those hopes remain in flux…

With the economy cratering, Borders says this is the worst time to cut funding for mental health services. But the latest version of the state budget would turn Portland into a city without a safety net for the most vulnerable residents struggling with mental crisis and substance abuse.

Multnomah County officials have put Cascadia and other nonprofits on notice they may lose nearly all their funding for key mental health services, closing the walk-in clinic and leaving police and emergency rooms to clean up the mess (emphasis mine). The same goes for residential addiction treatment…”

And there it is.  The folks who don’t have to deal with the fall out of their decision cut the programs leave the police and health care workers to clean up their mess.  What the fuck?  Odds are, if these folks were in an ED on any given night, twice more on weekends, they would see what happens without mental health services.  Not to mention riding along with the Portland Police, or EMS, or just any average person going out into downtown on a Friday night.

Not to mention those with drug and alcohol problems whose only chance at sobriety may be an in-patient treatment bed that are going to be completely cut, “Gone would be 138 of 154 beds for drug and alcohol treatment, leaving out about 690 clients each year. The waiting time already is six weeks.”  So that ETOHer we clean up and detox who really wants to clean up and get sober, but who doesn’t have insurance gets to try to stay clean without help.  Not really good odds.  They’ll be back, over and over again.

But the politicians sit safe and secure in Salem where they’ll only have to deal with theoretical results of their decisions.  Instead of looking deeper they’ll cut the obvious in spite evidence to the contrary:

Yet providers cite studies showing the state saves more than $5 for every $1 spent on treatment.

“You cut alcohol and drug treatment in the morning, in the afternoon you see increases in other areas, whether it’s criminal justice, child welfare or lost worker productivity,” says Timothy Hartnett, director of Comprehensive Options for Drug Abusers. “It’s really bad.”

And the reason?  No idea, but many times those with these problems don’t vote, aren’t involved and rarely advocated for.  Besides, who wants to stand up for crazy people, drunks and drug addicts?  No one in Salem.


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