A Baffled Look

The straight dope on mental health

Month: December, 2013

The Times

Here’s a December, 26, 2013 New York Times article about the cost of lack of specialized care for mentally ill people in crisis who get sent to emergency rooms. The rate of mentally ill who need help that get sent to emergency rooms is soaring as community mental health providers budgets are being cut more and more. There just aren’t enough beds available to accommodate them. There’s a pilot program in Raleigh, N.C. that has made more beds available and paramedics are trained to ask the right questions to know when to take mentally ill people to psychiatric facilities.


Affordable Treatment

It’s hard to separate advice on how to cope from political realities such as lack of access to affordable treatment.
According to an Orlando Sentinel article, my county mental health provider no longer treats people without insurance because of budget cuts. There is a clinic run by the local chapter of Mental Health America that treats people without insurance, but these people have to have another health condition like diabetes and even then the clinic can only treat 200 people. There’s a long waiting list. The current austerity measures will only make things worse.
Drug companies are making things worse for the uninsured. The uninsured have to pay higher costs because they don’t have an insurance company or the state to negotiate lower prices for them. I could go on and on about the drug companies, but that’s for another post.
That said, at least you can get free medicine through drug company patient assistance programs. It really helped me stay sane when I was getting my BA, but I still had to pay the doctor. You can get free samples from your doctor too. There are a few psychiatrists in my community who don’t take insurance and have a sliding scale for payment. They’re few and far between, but it’s worth looking into. Call your local NAMI chapter or your local Mental Health America to find one.
State & federal politicians are too busy cutting taxes that fund mental health treatment and the insurance companies lobby against better treatment because it costs them more. So, if there’s less money to fund community mental providers then we need more efficiency for the funds provided for treatment, right? Community mental health providers, however, have been so underfunded that they’re stretched to the max. Peer support groups help some, but it’s no substitute for getting professional help.
There are some possibilities to get free treatment for uninsured people. Back when I was in college I was hospitalized and had a huge bill. I looked into getting the bill forgiven. I asked the billing department for an application. The woman I talked to referred me to her manager because she knew nothing about it. The manager sent me a form. I filled it out, sent it in & my bill was forgiven. So if you have a huge hospital bill and you’re indigent, appeal to the hospital billing department & speak to a manager.
Another option for free or low cost hospital or health care facilities is Hill Burton facilities. Back in 1946 congress passed a law giving funds to health facilities and in return these facilities had to offer free or low cost treatment. Here’s a link to find one of these facilities near you. When you go there, go to the business office and ask for an Individual Notice. This will tell you about income requirements and where to go next. Ask for a Hill Burton form and be sure to bring pay stubs or some other kind of proof of income. If you are asked to apply for Medicaid or Medicare, do so. Ask for a Determination of Eligibility and how long it will be to be notified whether you qualify or not.
Hopefully some of these problems will get resolved with the Affordable Care Act. I wish I had more advice, but I can’t think of anything else right now.