The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Groups cast doubt on validity of state hospital’s electrotherapy consent forms

Here’s an article I found on the Austin American-Statesman that talks about the efficacy of the consent forms for controversial treatments on mentally ill patients.  I have often wondered about the use of consent forms on the floridly psychotic and the legalities of such use.  It seems others are wondering also.  Please read this article and tell me what you think.

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By Andrea Ball
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Updated: 11:25 p.m. Thursday, May 31, 2012
Published: 8:05 p.m. Thursday, May 31, 2012

Texas’ public psychiatric hospitals never should have used a controversial treatment on more than 120 aggressive patients because the consent forms they signed did not spell out potential side effects and other information required under state rules, mental health watchdogs said this week.

Patients who received cranial electrotherapy stimulation at North Texas State Hospital in Vernon were not told in writing that the treatment can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and skin irritation, said Beth Mitchell, a lawyer with Disability Rights Texas, a federally funded mental health advocacy group. The consent form — a copy of which was obtained by the Austin American-Statesman — also fails to mention alternative treatments and the condition that is being targeted.

But state officials say the form was adequate and is just one piece of the informed consent process.

“The form alone may not be the full picture,” said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services, which oversees the 10 public psychiatric hospitals. “Risks, benefits and alternatives could have been laid out verbally and documented in the progress notes.”

Challenges to the validity of the consent forms come several weeks after health department officials said they learned that a North Texas State Hospital psychiatrist had conducted unauthorized research on the use of cranial electrotherapy stimulation on violent, mentally ill patients.

The consent forms go to the heart of the questions advocates have posed on the issue: Did the patients understand and willingly agree to the treatment? Or were they being used as research subjects without regard to their civil rights?

“Honestly, I just don’t understand how this could happen,” Mitchell said. “I think there was a breakdown across the board here.”

State officials say they are still trying to determine whether …[read more]

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June 1, 2012 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mental health programs hit hard in proposed budget cuts

This is an article from my neck of the woods.  In the Austin American Statesman, this article was prominent.  Doesn’t look good for the mentally ill in Texas, does it?  Where will this stop, does anyone know?  When it stops, what will we be left with?  Does anyone care except those of us out in the trenches?

Please read the article and feel free to leave comments at the site or here.  I really love hearing from you and I value your opinions.

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More than half of state health department’s proposed $245 million in cuts would affect mental health.

By Andrea Ball and Corrie MacLaggan
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Published: 10:50 p.m. Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More than 20,000 Texans who receive state-funded mental health services would lose care under budget cuts proposed this week by the Department of State Health Services.

The agency — acting on an order from state leaders to reduce its 2012-13 budget by 10 percent — released a list this week of $245.9 million in proposed cuts. And while services across the agency were affected, mental health programs took the hardest hit — $134 million in proposed cuts.

A proposed $80 million cut to the state’s 39 publicly supported community mental health centers, which provide low-cost psychiatric care for poor or uninsured people, would eliminate services to 11,000 adults and 2,000 children across Texas, according to the agency.

Another $44 million in cuts to five state psychiatric hospitals — in Austin, Terrell, San Antonio, Rusk and Wichita Falls — would eliminate 183 beds, or 12 percent of their total capacity. Austin State Hospital would lose 24 of its 299 beds.

A proposed $10 million reduction to psychiatric crisis services would cut care to 6,000 people.

“That’s just horrifying,” said Lynn Lasky Clark , president of the advocacy group Mental Health America of Texas . “These cuts are going to be terrible for adults and kids that need services.”

The proposed reductions stem from a projected $15 billion to $18 billion state budget shortfall in 2012-13. Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus directed all state agencies to cut 5 percent from their 2010-11 budgets. Agencies were then ordered to find ways to cut an additional 10 percent over the next two years.

“We painstakingly combed through our budgets and had to make some very tough decisions, but this is not the end,” said Carrie Williams , spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services.

The Legislature, which convenes in January, will make the final determination on the cuts.

Under the proposal, other health department programs that would see cuts include Children with Special Health Care Needs, which provides money for treatment and medication for children with a variety of health problems and for people of any age who have cystic fibrosis. The program’s budget would be cut by $24.1 million, and it would serve 837 fewer people. In 2009 , the program helped about 2,300 people.

EMS trauma care reimbursements to hospitals and grants to local EMS providers would drop by $25 million , and childhood immunization programs would lose $7.5 million .

The proposed cuts follow two legislative sessions in which state leaders boosted funding for mental health care. Those increases helped the state — which is ranked 49th in country for its per-capita spending on mental health services — make up some of the ground lost in 2003. That year, faced with a $10 billion budget deficit, legislators cut $170 million from mental health services.

Cutting mental health services won’t save the state money in the long run, some mental health advocates say. People with serious, untreated psychiatric illnesses often end up in the criminal justice system or in hospitals, which cost more than the outpatient treatment that may be cut, said Robin Peyson , executive director of NAMI Texas, a mental health advocacy group.

Steven Schnee , executive director of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County , said that the proposed cuts would lead to an increase in the homeless population.

“Can you imagine treating people with diabetes like this?” he asked.

But Michael Quinn Sullivan , president of Empower Texans , which advocates for limited government, said it’s not realistic to say that any area of the budget is sacred.

“No one wants their pet projects cut,” he said, “but at the end of the day, someone’s pet projects will be cut.”

aball@statesman.com; 912-2506

cmaclaggan@statesman.com; 445-3548

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July 14, 2010 Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment