What Your Patients are Hearing

For Latino patients, mental illness often goes untreated


In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court is set to rule on whether those who provide mental health treatment to people addicted to illicit drugs can be free from prosecution. Right now, they are not. As reported in the Legal Intelligence, the case concerns two physicians at a drug addiction treatment facility who treated a man with an opioid addiction. In July 2018, a three-judge Superior Court panel upheld that physicians should not have liability protections under the Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA). The ruling reversed a lower court decision. The Superior Court judges sympathized with the view that treatment of mental illness in drug treatment facilities be given more legal leeway. Whether that leeway remains in place depends on the Supreme Court. If judges decide no, physicians who recognize signs of mental illness in patients being treated for drug addiction would treat the illness at the risk of subsequent liability. The case has again raised the issue of whether alcoholism and drug dependency should be considered mental illnesses. “We don’t believe it was the intended purpose of the MPHA to include drug addiction. Our concern is we don’t want hospitals or rehab facilities just having patients be seen by psychiatrists in order to invoke the MHPA,” said Patrick Mintzer, the lawyer who will argue the cases before the court. A counter view came from Jack Panella, one of the three Superior Court judges. In his decision, he wrote: “In light of current scientific research, as well as the recent addition of ‘addiction disorders’ to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual–5, we suggest that the Department of Human Services revise this definition.” The Legal Intelligence.

An op-ed in the Des Moines Register applauds republican Gov. Kim Reynolds for introducing two bills that are aimed at expanding mental health services to children and family in Iowa. “After decades of discussion and growing public support, these two bills take a huge step toward establishing a children’s mental health system,” wrote guest columnists Erin Drinnin of the United Way of Central Iowa and Kim Scorza of Seasons Center for Behavioral Health. The two also serve as cochairs of the Coalition to Advance Mental Health in Iowa for Kids (CAMHI4Kids), which includes more than 50 organizations. “Just like building a house requires a sturdy foundation, these bills are an important first step toward creating a structure for children’s mental well-being. In particular, CAMHI4Kids appreciates that these bills establish a voice and a seat for children and families at a regional level, using a system that is already in place,” wrote Ms. Drinnin and Ms. Scorza. The legislation would spell out the core services that would be available regardless of location in Iowa. The services would be geared toward children, rather than adults, reflecting the different mental health needs of children. “These important steps would finally sew together a patchwork of care that families currently must navigate with little direction. If a child is hurt on the playground, a caregiver knows to follow a clear path of care to help that child recover. But for a caregiver who is concerned about a child’s mental health, they often don’t know where to turn for help and must seek out services that might not exist in their community,” wrote Ms. Drinnin and Ms. Scorza. In Iowa, 80,000 children have a diagnosed serious emotional disturbance. About half of children aged 14 years and older with mental illness drop out of high school, and 70% of youth in Iowa’s juvenile justice system have a mental illness. “We are proud that Iowa is working together in a bipartisan way to ensure that our kids have the best start for future success,” wrote Ms. Drinnin and Ms. Scorza. Des Moines Register.

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