Archives for Rant-o-Rama


Why pinching pennies on mental health care won’t work

My disenchantment with politics has hit a new low. I didn't think that was possible until I began looking at Florida Gov. Rick Scott's 2015 budget proposal line-by-line.

I was writing another story on child welfare programs and figured while I was looking at the budget, I might as well look at our governor's budget proposal for mental health programs. Going straight to the bottom line, I see the governor is proposing spending $ million...
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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.
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Whitney Had No Demons

Would you like to know how many times "Whitney Houston" and "demons" appear together in a Google search?


That's a lot of demons for a woman who had none. Whitney Houston was mentally ill. She had the disease of addiction. She was not possessed. She was very, very sick. I afford her the same compassion and sympathy as I would someone who is slowly dying from cancer or some other progressive, fatal illness.

Addicts and alcoholics - like me - do not have demons. We have illnesses.

To the folks in Salem in the 1600's we probably seemed possessed because, let's be honest, some of us do some pretty wicked things when we are under the influence - especially those of us, like me, who are dual-diagnosed and who - like me - have other mental illnesses, such as bipolar.

We stigmatize addiction and alcoholism every time we use the word "demons" to describe our illnesses. We take a step backwards in the relentless effort to convince others that these are "real" medical conditions. The American Medical Association has recognized alcoholism as a legitimate illness for decades. Why can't we?
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Rant-o-Rama: Blue Cross’ end run around the mental health parity law

I know it's only September but I think it's safe to say that Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the undisputed winner of the 2011 If-At-First-You-Don't-Succeed  Award.
After losing the decades-old mental health parity battle with the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, Blue Cross and Blue Shield has orchestrated a very clever end run around the new law.
Here in Florida, it will work...
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Rant-o-Rama: Mental Health Parity for 9/11 Survivors

Where is Patrick Kennedy when we need him?!

Recently, the folks drafting rules for the 9/11 Compensation Fund announced that the $2.8 billion fund created by Congress last year will not cover mental health problems caused by 9/11.

The Special Master notes that as in the Fund’s first iteration, the statute limits eligible injuries to those consisting of ‘‘physical harm.’’ Accordingly, as in the Fund’s first iteration, the statutory language does not permit the Fund to cover individuals with only mental and emotional injuries, even if the mental and emotional injuries are covered by the WTC Health Program.

Apparently, the fund's newly-appointed special master, Sheila Birnbaum, hasn't heard about the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). I understand that the statute governing the 9/11 Compensation fund governs her duties to disburse the money to deserving survivors.

However, couldn't Birnbaum take a stand and argue that because the brain is a part of the human body - ergo "PHYSICAL" - that "mental and emotional" injuries should be covered - especially since the MHPAEA is now the law of the land? In the spirit of parity don't you think the government ITSELF should voluntarily commit to mental health parity when it comes to using tax dollars to provide ANY KIND OF HEALTH CARE!

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Suicide Prevention: The NRA, AMA and a Question of Guns

Once again, in the words of the philosopher Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit emergency room doctors, psychiatrists and pediatricians from asking patients  if they own or have access to a gun. Doctors would face stiff fines: $10,000 for the first offense; at least $25,000 for the second offense and up to $100,000 for the third offense.

I'm not making this up. In fact, on Tuesday the Florida Senate's Criminal Justice Association voted 4-1 in favor of the bill. The initial draft of the bill made it a felony to quiz a patient about gun ownership and included fines of $5 million.
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Parity Pitfalls: Got depression? Separate Deductibles are Good For You! Really!

In the words of the inimitable Gomer Pyle, "Surprise. Surprise. Surprise."

A group of three managed behavioral healthcare organizations, who suspiciously call themselves the "Coalition for Parity," have sued the feds, claiming they were "denied their right to participate in the rule-making process" for implementation the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

Who didn't see THIS coming?

The Coalition says the "interim final rule" drafted by the feds is so "vague," "ill-informed," "ill considered," "fatally ambiguous," "unrealistic," "severely flawed," "carelessly drafted" and "boundless" that the rule "does not advance the cause of mental health parity; but rather impedes it."

According to court papers filed on April Fools Day (Seriously, they filed this on April 1) the Coalition for Parity says it "strongly supports mental health parity." In fact,  the Coalition is so concerned about parity that it believes separate deductibles are the best way to ensure that people like me, with mental illnesses, get the care we need - especially low-paid workers, addicts and alcoholics.

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Got depression? These thieves may have the cure

According to the Associated Press, "thieves cut a hole in the roof of warehouse, rappelled inside and scored one of the biggest hauls of its kind ..." About $75 million worth of antidepressants and other drugs.


I have been a reporter for a long time and I have covered a lot of heists, but this is really, really weird. It gets even weirder: "The pills -- stolen from Eli Lilly & Co. in quantities big enough to fill a tractor trailer -- are believed to be destined for the black market, perhaps overseas."


It appears the thieves scaled the brick walls of the warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut, during a rainstorm before daybreak on Sunday. They lowered themselves to the floor, disabled the alarms and loaded up on Prozac, Cymbalta and Zyprexa. (I am having a vision of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Bernie Mac studying the blueprints of a drug warehouse in quaint, little, historic Enfield -- also the U.S. headquarter of toy maker Lego and a major distribution center for Hallmark Cards. I'm not making this up.)

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Depression, bipolar and trying to stay sober for richer or poorer

I think I would like to go to rehab.

I didn't go to rehab when I got sober in 1998. I went to the local AA clubhouse, which was a former Shriner's clubhouse with a spiffy wood bar (promptly converted to a coffee shop) and a meeting room that seemed large  enough to drive around in little cars. I love my AA clubhouse and have had some wonderful times there. It had a major overhaul a couple of years ago and now features a nice pool table, a flat, large screen television above a fireplace, pin ball machines, a public access computer, and a lovely little cafe. Did I mention the coffee? We have cappuccino, too.

Still, I think it might be kind of nice to go to rehab. I don't need it but I hear other recovering alcoholics talk about their rehabs like they're sororities or  spas and I think I could use 30 days to "work on myself" ... and my tan. I got the idea while trying to plan a vacation. I wanted to find a resort or spa for recovered alcoholics. A place where we could go and continue and expand our programs with lectures and seminars and yoga and massages and pedicures and really great healthy food. Meetings morning, noon and night. Movies. Tennis. Group meditations and long walks on the beach. Wouldn't that be great?

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