Peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness don’t be­long in jail

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - — Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Quinn Glover, 56, is trapped in more ways than one.

His men­tal ill­ness is a strait­jacket that’s left him with the cog­ni­tive skills of a 5-year-old.

Ar­rested for grab­bing the groin of a per­sonal care at­ten­dant last month, Mr. Glover landed be­hind bars.

When he fi­nally gets out of the Al­legheny County Jail, his only prospect is a re­turn to a men­tal health treat­ment sys­tem that’s done lit­tle for years but bat him around.

His odyssey is ad­di­tional ev­i­dence of the state’s need to es­tab­lish more in­pa­tient beds for peo­ple with se­vere men­tal ill­ness and to beef up the out­pa­tient treat­ment sys­tem for those try­ing to make it in com­mu­nity set­tings.

The state closed Mayview State Hos­pi­tal in De­cem­ber 2008 af­ter re­lo­cat­ing about 300 res­i­dents, in­clud­ing Mr. Glover, who had lived there for more than 25 years.

The clo­sure of the South Fayette fa­cil­ity was part of a na­tion­wide move­ment aimed at treat­ing the men­tally ill in less re­stric­tive set­tings.

It also was a cost-cut­ting mea­sure; it’s less ex­pen­sive to pro­vide com­mu­nity-based treat­ment than to op­er­ate sprawl­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

How­ever, the state never found ap­pro­pri­ate homes for some of those who were re­lo­cated and failed to pump am­ple re­sources into the out­pa­tient treat­ment sys­tem that was sup­posed to shoul­der much of Mayview’s work.

Be­sides those moved out of Mayview, the de­ci­sion to close the hos­pi­tal af­fects ev­ery­one in its for­mer ser­vice area — Al­legheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence and Wash­ing­ton coun­ties — who may need in­ten­sive psy­chi­atric care one day.

Rather than build up com­mu­nity pro­grams for the long haul, the state did the op­po­site.

It cut mil­lions of dol­lars in men­tal health fund­ing dur­ing the 2012-13 fis­cal year.

As treat­ment providers scaled back op­er­a­tions, some com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals and jails re­ported that the state ef­fec­tively shifted some of Mayview’s caseload to them.

While some of those re­lo­cated from Mayview have done well, oth­ers have not.

One was mur­dered. An­other pleaded no con­test to rap­ing a woman at the per­sonal care home where both lived. Mr. Glover, who suf­fered ir­repara­ble dam­age at 14 from a blood clot on his brain, also has strug­gled.

He’s been in var­i­ous fa­cil­i­ties since leav­ing Mayview, most re­cently a per­sonal care home in Mon­roeville. He needs more care than it pro­vided.

The jail also has had a dif­fi­cult time cop­ing with him.

Be­cause of in­ap­pro­pri­ate and threat­en­ing be­hav­ior, of­fi­cials moved him from a med­i­cal unit to a psy­chi­atric unit where in­mates spend most of their time in iso­la­tion.

His con­di­tion there de­te­ri­o­rated, and af­ter the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union in­ter­vened, a fed­eral judge or­dered him re­turned to the med­i­cal unit pend­ing his re­lease to a treat­ment pro­gram.

But of­fi­cials couldn’t im­me­di­ately find one. That’s shock­ing and un­ac­cept­able.

More in­pa­tient beds, in hos­pi­tals or com­mu­nity set­tings, are needed for those who are se­verely and per­sis­tently ill.

Also needed are a stronger safety net for those re­ceiv­ing out­pa­tient treat­ment, lest they get sicker and re­quire higher lev­els of care, and bet­ter sup­port for fam­i­lies who strug­gle with loved ones’ ill­nesses.

Nearly a decade af­ter the clos­ing of Mayview, the state’s prom­ise to re­make men­tal health care in south­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia re­mains un­ful­filled.

This man’s odyssey is ad­di­tional ev­i­dence of the state’s need to es­tab­lish more in­pa­tient beds for peo­ple with se­vere men­tal ill­ness and to beef up the out­pa­tient treat­ment sys­tem for those try­ing to make it in com­mu­nity set­tings.

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