The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Mental Health Cuts Hit Metro Police

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (Tenn...
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Here’s an article about Tennessee and the effect of cutting mental health budgets on the Emergency Services of Nashville.  This article shows the dilemma that police officers are facing due to the cutting back of services for the mentally ill.  More and more of these types of situations are taking place.  The mentally ill are not going away just because the legislature or governors stop funding treatment.  They will take up residence on your street and on my street and, hopefully, on the law of the state capitol buildings.  These are seriously ill people and their voices are not being heard because they have no money to buy into the system.

Until this situation is corrected, we can continue to see our police, fire and rescue, EMS, and ER’s being tied up because someone, somewhere has to deal with this population.

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By Mark Bellinger

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A lack of bed space in state institutions is forcing Metro Police officers to spend hours and sometimes days taking care of the mentally ill.

It’s a consequence of state budget cuts in the mental health system.

Monday East Precinct Commander Bob Nash said he had officers watching one person at the Mental Health Cooperative for 24 hours.

“We have been there now almost 24 hours waiting for them to find a bed, so that’s three shifts of officers watching this person,” said Nash.

The Mental Health Cooperative is a non-profit group with a state contract to evaluate the mentally ill.

Nash said recently his officers have been spending more time taking care of mentally ill people who seem to be either a danger to themselves or the community.

“It has been happening more lately, and my experience over the years tells me these things do spike for whatever reason from time to time. We may be in the midst of one of those spikes,” said Nash.

North officers had a case this weekend when officers worked in shifts watching a patient from Saturday night to Monday morning at General Hospital.

A mobile crisis team with the Mental Health Cooperative looked at the patient and then the officers waited for a bed to open up in a state hospital.

Amanda Myatt heads up the mobile crisis team. Myatt thinks Metro Police will continue to be busy. She said in some cases there is no place close to send the mentally ill.

Budget cuts have forced the state’s mental health hospitals to reduce the number of beds available for the mentally ill. At MTMHI the cut was from 234 adult beds to 209.

Also, a new law lets the hospitals reject new patients if there isn’t space available.

“Prior to that if they were full they still had to take someone, so that’s created a snowball affect,” said Myatt.

Some Metro Police officers would say they’re at the bottom of the hill, and wasting a lot of time instead of patrolling the streets looking for criminals.

One officer said this weekend he spent his entire 9 hour shift reading a magazine at General Hospital waiting for a decision on where to send the mentally ill man he was watching.

State officials said there were beds available, but not in Nashville. The closest location was two or three hours away. Police said it would take an entire shift to drive there and back.

In general, the bad economy appears to be taking a toll on the mental health system as well. State officials said they’re seeing a lot more people who do not have insurance.

The only bed available to them is in a state facility, which places more of a strain on the system.

E-mail: mbellinger@newschannel5.com

You can view the original article here

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January 26, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , ,

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