Kadner: A plan without funding to replace mental hospital
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 May 23, 2012 11:30PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:00AM
It’s easy to cut government programs for crazy people because they’re not exactly beloved by the public.
People in the mental health field will complain about the use of the word “crazy,” preferring something less offensive that won’t get the public all worked up.
The real problem is that the general public doesn’t get worked up about the loonies until one of them rapes a senior citizen or shoots a bunch of college students.
“Why didn’t someone get that person some treatment?” folks will scream when that happens.
Where, exactly, are people supposed to get that treatment?
The Tinley Park Mental Health Center is one of the few places that offers hospital care to the mentally ill who have no health insurance. And the state is planning to close the place July 1.
On Wednesday, state health officials held a meeting in Tinley Park to explain that as of June 15, the mental health center will no longer accept new patients, and they outlined a plan for replacement care.
Some of the people who attended the session weren’t impressed.
For example, state health officials claim they’ve negotiated deals with some private hospitals that will provide beds for psychiatric patients in the Southland.
Those hospitals include Mt. Sinai, St Bernard’s, St. Anthony’s and the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago; two hospitals in Kankakee; MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn; and Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Christ is the only one that would be convenient to people in the Southland, although state officials list Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey as a possibility “pending negotiations.”
Northern Will County is also served by the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, and I see no hospital listed that would be convenient for those residents.
Joseph Troiani, director of the mental health division of the Will County Health Department, was optimistic about the state’s plan.
Troiani, who had been an outspoken critic of the Tinley Park center’s closing, said the state’s proposal follows closely a treatment program now in place for children and adolescents with mental illness.
Community agencies will provide evaluations and assessments of patients at emergency rooms and then recommend them to an appropriate level of care.
That care may be for a short stay in a hospital, outpatient treatment, substance abuse treatment, care in a residential facility or longer term care at the state’s Madden Mental Health Center in Maywood.
Will County’s mental health agency would be one of the community service providers paid by the state to perform assessments, as would Grand Prairie Services in Tinley Park.
Mark Heyrman, a board member of Mental Health America-Illinois, who has spearheaded a lawsuit against the state’s closing of Tinley Park, was more critical of the state’s plan. He said the state wants to replace a 100-bed hospital with 20 beds at private hospitals.
“They have not been able to contract for even those 20 beds,” Heyrman said. “They claim that they will screen at emergency departments and then refer people to crisis residential beds. However, their plan contains no funding for crisis residential beds.”
In addition, Heyrman points out, the state will rely on community-based agencies to provide treatment to the center’s former patients, while it plans to cut millions of dollars out of its budget for such programs.
Marianne Bithos, president of the National Alliance for Mental Illness-South Suburbs of Chicago, also criticized the state’s plan.
“If you had a family member suffering from cancer,” she said, “you would want them to be able to go to a hospital and get treatment. Mental illness is a chemical imbalance of the brain. Someone suffering from mental illness should be entitled to the same hospital care as anyone suffering from cancer.”
Laurine Byrne, vice president of the local NAMI chapter, said she’s skeptical about the state’s financial plan to replace the mental health center.
“Tinley Park’s budget is
$20 million a year, and the state is planning to spend $9.8 million on its community service plan,” she said. “We do not support institutional care per se, but the state isn’t setting aside enough money to provide community care.”
I told her most people don’t care about the closing of Tinley Park Mental Health Center.
“They should care,” she said. “Anyone who is a parent should understand what it is like to have someone who is sick in the family who can’t get the care they need.”
State Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) said Wednesday that she’s trying to get money in the state budget to keep open the Tinley Park center through this year.
That would be something. But I don’t know why some crazy has to shoot people for the public to realize that the mentally ill need help.