Seattle Press

The State is spending 1.8 billion annually on mental illness. In fact, The Seattle P-I's September 2008 analysis found that of the taxpayer dollars spent on people with severe mental illness each year in this state, about $7 of every $10 go to services that don't directly address underlying sickness. Little goes to long-term solutions such as treatment, housing and support for people whose symptoms are otherwise so severe they can't function. Washington spends more than $100 million a year incarcerating people with mental illness. Yet many of these incidents -- the petty thefts, vandalism, assaults, trespassing, public urination -- might have been avoided had those who needed it gotten effective treatment and support to begin with, said E. Fuller Torrey, who is now president of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a Virginia-based nonprofit working to eliminate barriers to treatment for people with severe mental illness.
[Seattle PI, September 4, 2008]

"Today we have 170 people at Western State who are clinically cleared for discharge -- no longer at risk to self or others -- but who have significant support needs, and nowhere to go," said Richard Kellogg, head of the mental health division of the state Department of Social and Health Services. "We wouldn't have backups if we had patient flow -- if we could get people out in a timely manner," he said. "In the short term, what is significantly lacking is housing alternatives -- housing connected to support services, employment and social networks."
[Seattle PI, September 4, 2008]

Plymouth Housing Group, one of the largest providers of housing for the mentally ill, “...has 800 people on its list and a two-year wait,” said Tara Connor, Plymouth's policy director.
[Seattle P-I, November 16th, 2008]

“2 Seattle boarding homes housing 100 people, closed since last spring”
[Seattle P-I, November 16th, 2008]

“The 200 housing units being developed with the $13 million in King County sales tax money won't be available until 2010 or later” Amnon Shoenfeld, King County Director of Mental Health, said. “Those projects haven't broken ground yet.”
[Seattle P-I, November 16th, 2008]

King County has a major shortage of housing that can support the mentally ill. Some additional facilities can be expected from a new, local sales tax to help with mental illness and addiction, but the first projects won't be open until 2010.

A recent study said 5,000 more units of "permanent supportive housing" are needed in Washington State. It's estimated that 673 new units for people with mental illness will be created by 2010. But the supply hasn't caught up with the demand, said Lynn Davison, executive director of Common Ground, a nonprofit housing organization. Unless and until the numbers grow, long waiting lists will continue both inside and outside Western State.
[Seattle Times, December 29th, 2008]

King County Council, Oct. 6, 2008: ...”it is estimated that 65,000 people in King County have a severe mental illness”

“Housing is a critical component in how well someone with mental illness functions in the community”, said Adrienne Quinn, director of housing for the city of Seattle.
[Seattle P-I, November 16th, 2008]

Meanwhile, waiting lists for mental health housing in King County -- and around the state -- continue to grow.
[Seattle P-I, November 16th, 2008]

Mental health care policies also have been driven by a lack of places to put people according to a just released 160-page report as a task force convened by the King County Prosecutor's Office and state Department of Corrections. "You have to start with capacity," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said. "We made decisions decades ago to deinstitutionalize and eliminate capacity, and did so with all the best intentions, but thinking that in its place there would be a community-based treatment system.” That system never materialized. “Many of the recommended reforms especially those that… would address the need for more housing, more secure facilities with capacity to handle people who also need treatment and more staff, would be costly.”
[Seattle PI, December 5, 2008]

National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) “no other state in the union offers fewer beds for the mentally ill per capita than Washington”

Seattle Journalist Carol Smith Receives Prestigious Journalism Award

Seattle Journalist Carol Smith Receives Prestigious Journalism Award. Gravely Disabled: Broken mental health care system wastes money, chances, lives.

It seems appropriate to begin this update with the news that Carol Smith was just awarded the 2009 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism Award for her story published last year in the Seattle P.I. entitled "Gravely Disabled: Broken mental health care system wastes money, chances, lives." These medals are presented by the Journalism centers on Children and Families and are funded by The Annie E Casey Foundation. Recipients are honored at a ceremony in Washington D.C. and receive the Casey Medal along with $1000. Congratulations and best wishes to Carol for this well-deserved honor!

Most of us remember the impact Carol's story had on us just one year ago. Each of us identified with Liz Browning as she fought for her son who was too psychotic to know he needed help. Why must we continue to fight - not only for our loved one's lives- but against a legal system that views our efforts as an assault on civil liberties! This true story served as the impetus for many of us to reach out to Liz and share our own painful experiences. We came together to create our mission statement, to commit to changing the current failing system and to form Browning Communities: Compassionate Care for the Mentally Ill. Though there is still much work to done, we look back at this past year as one of significant accomplishments as we strive to build "structured, comprehensive, and therapeutic living facilities for the chronically mentally ill". Through the leadership of Liz Browning - who had the courage to share her son's story- about 70 attendees from all walks of life and all members of the 'mental illness' community came together on August 28th at Liz's home and Browning Communities was officially launched.

It's a mad, mad world

A crazy court ruling means thousands of mentally ill will return to the streets of NYC

By E. Fuller Torrey

Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Brooklyn issued a ruling this week that, although well-intentioned, will ultimately mean disaster for New Yorkers. In response to a lawsuit brought by Albany group Disability Advocates, the judge ruled that the state Office of Mental Health violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by warehousing over 4,000 mentally disabled people in 380 group homes around the state. These people must be released, said Judge Garaufis, to live “in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”

CLICK HERE for the full article.

Originally published September 13, 2009

Speaking out to make a difference on mental health challenges

Guest columnist Martha Monfried writes about the months since she told the story of challenge of a family member's mental illness and all the support she has felt. She urges others to speak out.

By Martha Monfried

In January, The Seattle Times published my op-ed about my distraught sister who jumped off the 520 bridge on New Year's Day. Thankfully, she was rescued by a holiday boater.

Nine months later, I hope to spur you to action. We must speak out and work together to find a cure for the alphabet soup of brain disorders, from autism to Alzheimer's.

The morning my op-ed appeared, my teenagers asked, "Mom, will it make a difference?" I instinctively replied, "Probably not."

But it has. And, I thank everyone with whom I have connected since then who is dedicated to helping those with a mental illness or a brain disease recover and lead productive lives.

CLICK HERE for the full article.

Originally published Friday, October 8, 2010

Washington's mental-health policies are killing people

Washington state policy under the Involuntary Treatment Act is leaving too many people with mental illness to fend for themselves, writes guest columnist Mike Johnson. In extreme cases, people are dying, whether they kill themselves, or can't help themselves or harm others.

By Mike Johnson

RECENTLY, Joseph tried to jump out of a window on the fourth floor of the Men's Shelter of the Union Gospel Mission in Pioneer Square.

A fellow resident in our addiction-recovery program pulled him back in, and we took Joseph up the hill to the Psychiatric Emergency Room at Harborview Hospital ... again. A few months earlier, police stopped Joseph from jumping from an overpass. Despite this history, Harborview informed us they were releasing Joseph after only a couple of hours in care ... again. They couldn't hold him, they argued.

CLICK HERE for the full article.

Originally published October 28, 2009

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