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Laura’s Law and Santa Barbara

A Look at the Quality of Mental Health Care

Two topics have arisen lately that are very disturbing to me as a mentally ill citizen. One is the specter of forced medication of human beings introduced by Laura’s Law. The other is the expansion of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADMHS).

Several recent tragedies have been attributed to allegedly mentally ill persons, leading to a discussion of forcing medical treatment onto people who may not be able to adequately defend themselves against this attack on their rights, freedom, and liberty as citizens. Some violent criminals may be mentally ill, but mental illness does not make a person a criminal. Committing a crime is a choice made by an individual, or are all criminals mentally ill?

Are the mentally ill not capable of making decisions? Laura’s Law would be a tragic precedent. How much more of our freedoms and human rights must be eroded in the name of security? The world can be a dangerous, scary place. After 9/11 happened, the paranoid, hysterical, delusional response that followed did not erase the event. How many freedoms do we relinquish? How many people do we imprison or medicate into oblivion? How many wars do we fight? Is Homeland Security simply a manifestation of a national obsessive paranoia and the delusion that we can make the United States a safe place? Is our country mentally ill and in need of a heavy dose of Ketamine? Certainly things we have done show us to be very dangerous. No to Laura’s Law.

How then do we care for the mentally ill in Santa Barbara? A plethora of psychiatrists are available in the area if you can afford to pay six or eight hundred dollars an hour and are not too sick; you will be fine. If you do not have the money, you are in for a world of pain. A few good, altruistic people will help you, but you probably will not be able to find them. Many of us end up at Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services.

Why people who choose to drink or do drugs are lumped together with people who have illnesses makes no sense. But they are all treated the same. We are all under suspicion of trying to get drugs for fun. (No one requires the staff there to undergo drug screening.) We have very little input into our treatment options, as if we were too moronic to understand or make rational decisions. We are not permitted to meet with the team that decides options for treatment or services that affect our lives and health. The only real option we have there is to accept their recommendations or leave and receive no treatment; some even choose suicide. There is no dialogue.

This is very disturbing because ADMHS is soon to receive increased funding and is promising expanded services. If you make a broken thing bigger does it become unbroken? Last year, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics was broken. To receive funding they had to get fixed. Since then the clinics have been reorganized and updated, and they have become excellent and efficient places to seek health care.

ADMHS needs to be fixed now before the new funding disappears into the maw of a draconian beast. Mentally ill people should not be treated as or alongside alcoholics and drug abusers. We should be included in discussions of our well-being and treatment as in any other type of health care. We should have the freedom to seek care outside of ADMHS without any penalties or loss of services. If mental health care were more accessible, compassionate, understanding, and humble, more people would seek care, and maybe tragedies would be avoided. Fix it now!

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