Sen. Creigh Deeds: The high cost of not treating mental illness
I couldn’t hear what the man on 60 Minutes was saying because I was busy making dinner but I saw the scar across his face and figured he was a veteran or had been in a car crash.
I record 60 Minutes every week so I figured I would watch it later. I did and then I realized this was Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds. I vaguely remembered reading a few news stories about some senator’s son attacking his father and then killing himself but there was no follow up – just that the senator had pulled through.
I did not know that Deeds’ son, Gus, 24, had bipolar disorder and that he and his father had been in the emergency room trying to get treatment for Gus the day before the attack. Or that there were no beds available in the psych unit and so Gus went home – unlike other kids who can linger for days in emergency rooms waiting for a psych bed to open up.
The story got more horrific as it went along. Deeds gave us the unimaginable details of the attack and how he looked at his son as he sliced at him with a knife and told him how much he loved him. And then there were interviews with other parents who had been in similar situations, with children much younger than Gus – discharged from emergency rooms because there were no beds for psych patients.
All I could think while watching was… What The F-word is wrong with us! Sandy Hook wasn’t enough? Aurora wasn’t enough? Virginia Tech wasn’t enought? What astounds and infuriates me is that we – or at least I – know who is to blame.
We must take some blame for not demanding of our lawmakers take action, like INSISTING THAT FINAL RULES ARE IMPLEMENTED TO ENFORCE OUR 6-YEAR-OLD MENTAL HEALTH PARITY LAW – WHICH WOULD PUNISH INSURANCE COMPANIES FOR NOT PROVIDING EQUAL CARE FOR MENTAL ILLNESSES.
But most of all I blame the insurance companies themselves. Why do we allow insurance companies to dictate health care in this country? Over and over I heard parents on last night’s 60 Minutes episode say the insurance companies refused to cover the care their children needed.
There aren’t enough hospital beds because there is no money in treating mentally ill patients – especially those who are in crisis. The insurance companies have made sure of that by refusing to cover mental illness on par with other illnesses.
Hospitals across the land have opened cardiac care units. Why? Mental illness is surely as prevalent as heart disease. The answer: insurance companies reimburse for critical care of cardiac patients because EKGs, angiograms and radionuclide stress tests are proof of a reimbursable medical condition.
Hospitals make money on those kinds of procedures because insurance companies reimburse without a lot of hassle. Speaking of hassle, cardiac patients tend to be a lot more docile and easier to care for than actively psychotic patients.
Maybe we need some massive class-action lawsuit filed by parents such as Sen. Deeds against the big insurance companies. Or maybe the states’ attorneys generals need to sue the insurance companies, like they sued the tobacco companies. Maybe we need to spend more money on brain imaging research, so there will finally be tests to prove mental illness.
How high must the body count go before we get angry enough to do something?
Stapleton, C. (2014). Sen. Creigh Deeds: The high cost of not treating mental illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 28, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2014/01/sen-creigh-deeds-the-high-cost-of-not-treating-mental-illness/