Thursday, February 12, 2015

On closing Lakeshore: Results living under Knoxville I40 bridge

Last night under the bridge, I witnessed human despair firsthand, a direct result of the decision made two years ago to close our region's only state psychiatric hospital. His name was Charles.
I'd offered to help him complete his form to enter Lost Sheep's rehab program for his alcohol addiction. It was a fairly easy task at first. He had no address, no job, no income, no relatives as both parents had passed away. But then we got to the medical history page. It filled up completely. Bipolar. Six different medications - he could name them all - including antipsychotics. Self medication of choice: alcohol. Just discharged from Peninsula psychiatric hospital 6 days ago. I asked, "dear Charles, what are you doing living under the bridge if you just got discharged from the hospital?"
He said, "this is where they brought me".
So I ask ... is it okay with you when our society throws people away?
It's not okay with me.
If we advocate for anything, we should be advocating for mandatory assisted outpatient treatment for these folks with serious brain illnesses as they are discharged from hospitals, especially when they have no other support.
AOT would provide the needed services and oversight to keep people OFF the streets, not put them ON the streets. But sadly - after 8 years of advocating - Tennessee still remains as one of only 5 states in our nation without AOT laws on its books. Soon we will be one of only 3, as New Mexico and Maryland are close to passing AOT laws.
This post is for you, Charles. I admire you for reaching out, as impaired as you were, and I sincerely hope you get the help you need.

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