LAcrpdA recent story in the LA Times titled, “L.A. County backs bill on outpatient mental health treatment,” discusses new funding to help treat mentally ill patients once they are discharged from a ward. The article states:

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, directs the county’s chief executive and legislative advocates to get behind five new state bills that would make it easier for counties to create such programs and secure “mental health treatment for those who refuse to get help on their own.”

What the article doesn’t talk about are details surrounding these treatment programs.  If it’s for people who “refuse to get help” let’s come out and say it.  These will be locked facilities that patients will be forced to go to against their will.  Where are these facilities located?  How are they managed? 

I have been to these locked facilities.  They are sprinkled throughout L.A. County often times in poor neighborhoods and are broken down and inhumane.  I remember when I first visited a facility, I was shocked, and appalled.  Similar to an inpatient psych ward, there were overmedicated patients wandering the halls, poor upkeep of space, and a sadness that penetrated the open air.

People need to know more about what’s going on behind closed doors of treatment homes.  If we are going to allocate funding for more “treatment facilities” let’s take a good look at the environment where we place the mentally ill, and how we treat the mentally ill.  Let’s not just throw money at a problem that demands deeper attention.

Bottom line: Out of sight out of mind does not help treat the mentally ill, overmedicating to keep the peace does not help treat mental illness, and you too would be appalled if you saw such facilities that lack humane treatment programs, and only hide a much larger problem.

LA on the map photo available from Shutterstock