My youngest daughter, Sophia, and I walked both days this past weekend. We talked about how things have changed since Chloe has returned from residential treatment six months ago. I asked Sophia how things are different for her.
“She’s like a whole new person,” Sophia said. “She’s calmer and more predictable. She’s so happy! I no longer have to worry about whether she’ll freak out over the smallest thing.”
It was great to hear that Sophia has felt more settled and happier over the past few months. When you have a family member who is mentally ill, you know that your world can turn upside down without notice. Until stability is gained through medication management, therapy or both, living in crisis is the norm and it is often all family members can do to hold it together.
To make matters more difficult, our systems and resources to support the mentally ill are severely lacking. I spoke with a detective friend the other day who told me that our local police department, which serves roughly 70,000 residents, takes 10-15 people to the hospital each day due to a mental disturbance of some sort. He said what happens from there is another story. The hospitals either admit them to their psychiatric unit, if there’s room, or “treat” them and send them home. In our area, adults can only be held in the hospital for five days for psychiatric reasons, unless they are a danger to themselves or others.
Unfortunately, for youth, intensive treatment for mental illness is about as difficult to obtain, unless you’re on state assistance or the youth is violent and/or a danger to themselves or others. Even for those who have private insurance, health insurers are often reluctant and unwilling to pay for long-term treatment. While Chloe was in treatment in Corvallis, we met a few kids who had been there for three years, supported by the state. In the meantime, our private insurance company began denying coverage for her treatment after 30 days, which we learned was typical in the industry. When we moved her to the Grants Pass facility, the administration was able to prove a certificate of need for Chloe in which the remainder of her treatment was covered by the state of Oregon. Otherwise, Chloe’s daily fee of $450 would have been a major hardship for our family and I’m sure is cost-prohibitive for most.
Treatment has been very effective for Chloe and has been a game-changer. She is doing super in school and her teachers say she’s focused and bright. I wish our system could say the same for other youth and families in our same situation. I know early intervention with Chloe has been critical and I know it could be with other families too.
If you’re interested in supporting change at the legislative level, visit www.NAMI.org.