What Your Patients are Hearing

Family estrangement: Would mutual respect make a difference?


Offenders with mental illness get a break

A law included as part of budget legislation that was signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown of California in June 2018 has offered people with mental health troubles who have been charged with a crime the opportunity for treatment instead of jail time.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the law provides judges with the discretion to order offenders into treatment rather than sentencing them. Success in treatment can lead to charges being dropped.

The law has been praised by some mental health advocates but panned by law enforcement officials and prosecutors with a harder view of criminal justice. The opposition stems largely from a December 2018 ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal that the law could be applied to retroactively address the case of a man imprisoned for 29 years in 2017 for multiple felony charges that included domestic violence and assault.

The law does not extend to those charged with murder, manslaughter, rape, and child sexual abuse. To date, citing mental illness in seeking diversion of sentencing has not proven successful in most cases.

Schools get mental health allocation

The Orleans Parish School Board, which serves all of New Orleans, will allocate $1.3 million to the Center for Resilience, a local mental health day treatment program, beginning this year. The new program will expand mental health help to children in grades 9-12, according to a report in the Times-Picayune.

The funding will enable the center to expand an existing program that helps students with behavioral issues. Such help is not available in the traditional school system. By offsetting part of the price tag for the mental health care, the initiative “[helps to make] this critical service more available for our students most in need,” said Dominique Ellis, a spokesperson for the school board. “Mental health day treatment programs like the Center for Resilience typically cost between the ranges of $80,000-$100,000 per student to operate effectively.”

The development brings New Orleans level with money spent on similar programs in other school boards nationwide. It’s a service that is sorely needed. According to statistics supplied by the Center for Resilience, 60% of New Orleans children suffer from PTSD and are 4.5 times more likely to suffer from hyperactivity, aggression, and social withdrawal than similarly aged children elsewhere in the United States.

Bill addressing opioid crisis a “no-brainer”

Legislation put forward in the current session of the Texas Legislature would require pharmacists to identify all prescription opioids with a red cap and a hard-to-miss warning of the addictive risk of the medications. In addition, pharmacists would have to explain the risk in person to those receiving the medications and get signed acknowledgment of the conversation before dispensing the drugs.

As described in an article in the Austin American-Stateman, nearly 3,000 people in Texas died from drug overdoses in 2017. The deaths tied to opioid overdoses are not certain, but other data from 2015 suggest that one-third is a reasonable estimate.

“Losing a loved one to an opioid overdose is a tragedy that far too many Texas families experience,” said Rep. Shawn Thierry last month, when she introduced the three bills. “These distinctive red caps will serve as a clear notice to Texans that opioids are unlike milder forms of prescription pain relievers and have life-altering risks that must be considered before taking them.”

Warning labels on everything from food to tobacco products, and including them on prescription opioids is a “no-brainer,” Ms. Thierry said. “The more we can educate our residents the less likely they will be to misuse these medications.”

A report issued in November 2018 chronicled the drug crisis in Texas and offered recommendations. Many of the 100 recommendations involved the absence of treatment resources in the state.

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