Letter: Finding support for mental health issues

If anyone saw “60 Minutes” recently, you had to be jolted by the poignant first installment on the show that entailed an interview by Scott Pelley with Sen. Creigh Deeds, of the Virginia Legislature, about the latter’s recent unfortunate traumatic experience with his son, Gus, who attacked and injured his father, then committed suicide. Deeds’ son was “forced” to be discharged from an ER after no mental health beds were found available within a specified time range.

I’ve had a recent difficult situation with a relative concerning mental health treatment that has had some similar aspects to the Deeds family situation, but it is unique and worth noting to highlight some of the concerns.

As reported by Chelyen Davis in her “On Politics” column, “Virginia law only allows a person to be held under an emergency custody order for six hours if a bed can’t be found for them. And no bed was found for Gus.”

Could this happen in Louisiana? Fortunately, our relative had not been forced out to the streets late last year with multiple hospitalizations, but I have heard of horror stories from others since we now have reduced mental health crisis intervention programs and available hospital beds statewide.

It was so hard to see this relative being shuttled in and out of varying group homes, while being unable to return home, with inconsistent medication management by the facilities’ staffing; the latter was also exacerbated every time by the very slow process involved with getting prior authorization from the state’s Behavioral Health Services.

New medicines initiated for this relative, started by the health providers, would unfortunately not be available to the person until usually five to seven days after discharge from a provider — even for as long as two weeks once — thus contributing to more hospitalizations and concerns for his and others’ safety.

Our situation is still ongoing, as this relative is thankfully still being hospitalized and cared for and hopefully will be stabilized on some new meds, as well as being able to find appropriate and manageable housing — realistically, the latter is a formidable challenge. With the upcoming Louisiana legislative session, maybe some better efforts can be striven for and enacted.

Like I communicate to my clientele in my own professional work, I have to remind myself (and the health care providers sometimes!) that I am not the person’s social worker — I am a relative and have been a caregiver at times. However difficult, it is important for me to set boundaries.

Lastly, for anyone like me needing support, I recommend the Mental Health Association of Greater Baton Rouge, which I used to serve on in the past as a board member. Their website is http://mhagbr.com/index.php, and contact number is (225) 929-7674.

Keith Horcasitas

social worker

Baton Rouge