Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why change?

BY: GG Burns, KY Mental Health Advocate

Why change?

BY: GG Burns, KY Mental Health Advocate

Recently I have been asked exactly “what is” CHANGE MENTAL HEALTH LAWS IN KY? Please allow me to explain.

According to Webster’s dictionary "change" is to make different in some particular way, to give a different position, course, or direction; to ALTER or TRANSFORM. In many contents, "amend" and "change" are used interchangeably as far as context and meaning.

CHANGE MENTAL HEALTH LAWS IN KY is a Blog about my personal story. It is also my effort to educate others why we need to bring treatment for those with brain disorders to the level of those with cancer and other organic diseases. Stigma is one thing ~ ignorance is another. The only way citizens of Kentucky will ever change their perception is through open discussions, education, and awareness.

My goal is to encourage mental health providers, family members, consumers and law enforcement professionals to visit my Blog to learn of topics such as anosognosia, the need for more CIT training, better mental health screening, or even other options rather than "force treatment". In fact, I dislike the idea of “forced” anything. In a perfect world we would not need Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), but yet … Kentucky does not have that luxury. Not yet. In a perfect world there would be a cure for mental illness or at least medication, which would give a person insight.

Please note that AOT is only needed for a very small percentage of those diagnosed with a mental illness. Some agencies state less that 2%. Yet, this small amount of people are the very ones who get "stuck" in the revolving door. They are the ones using up a large majority of KY's budget. For more information click here and here to view the breakdown of mental health services in Kentucky and the number of people with mental illnesses in Kentucky prisons.

CHANGE means many things to me ... not only amending the current law, but also we need to CHANGE regulations and policies regarding funding, employment, housing, the corrections system, the transition of our youth with mental illness, and accountability of those who serve the seriously mentally ill. Many advocates have lobbied for change, but we need more individuals to step up and allow their voices to be heard.

In addition, I hope my blog will eventually be a place families will share their stories and desires. In the past century, NAMI has released the voice of "recovery" by encouraging people with a mental health diagnoses, (consumers) to share their stories. This incredible program is called In Our Own Voice, (IOOV). Mental illness is not singular ... it impacts the entire family and for too long, family members have hidden their pain under the rug.

I have NO hidden agenda except "survival". I do not have the answers how Kentucky can fund a revision to the current law … this is why I have added a section called “solutions”. I am asking others to share their wish list and hope that over time, many will share their suggestions and ideas. I do know legislators will not care about amending this law, if no one complains or takes the time to explain how revisions could keep a person from constantly being a threat to themselves or others and reducing the monetary drain on an already fragile budget.

I also welcome collaboration with “any person or group” working on amending mental health policy in Kentucky. It is time to change.

As quoted from Treatment Advocacy Center's Model AOT law written by:
E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., Mary T. Zdanowicz, J.D. and Jonathan Stanley, J.D.

How can so much degradation and death – so much inhumanity – be justified in the name of civil liberties? It cannot. The opposition to involuntary committal and treatment betrays a profound misunderstanding of the principal of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness – free them from the Bastille of their psychoses – and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.

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