Joseph Merlin Bowers
About two years ago the managing director of the community center for people in recovery from mental illnesses where I volunteer asked me to drive two hours to Denver one mourning to attend a large mental health stake holders meeting. He felt there should be at least one consumer at this meeting. It had to do with a new emphasis being insisted on and implemented by federal medicaid people to treat the whole person rather than have people with mental illnesses in one box, people with psychical ailments in another and substance abusers in still another. After all people often have multiple issues. A person with a serious mental illness may develop diabetes due to lifestyle and or medication and self medicate with one substance or another. Often it is hard to determine which came first. This new emphasis sounds on the surface altogether logical, fitting and proper.
I, however, have been a consumer of mental health services since 1964. I’ve seen this kind of thing played out over and over since then. It always results in more funding, resources and attention being diverted away from those of us with serious mental illnesses in favor of psychical aliments, addictions and people in less dire need . By serious mental illnesses I mean schizophrenia, bipolar 1, major depression and any other truly debilitating mental affliction. With limited resources there is always competing needs and demand for them sad as that may seem.
I may have been the only non-professional consumer in this large room of a couple hundred people. In the mental health industry the term stake holder refers to people who attempt to treat the mentally ill and not the mentally ill themselves.
The federal people conducting this meeting of a hundred or do informed us that the purpose was for those implementing the new emphasis to gather input and ideas from stake holders. I had opportunity to put in writing my concerns and ideas. Talking with others during breaks, the events generally seemed to be seen more as public relations efforts than honest attempts at gathering information upon which to base policy and stricture. Most of us got the impression that the feds came in knowing how they thought this should be done and that was ultimately how it would be done.
When I moved to Pueblo in November of 2014, the largest provider of mental health services was a private organization called Spanish Peaks Behavioral Health. As a result of this new emphasis, they were changing their name to Health Solutions, hiring medical doctors and creating more facilities than just those for mental illnesses. We in the mental health community were assured that these new services would be self supporting and no funding or attention would be diverted from people with mental illnesses.
About a month ago, I was informed that I was being discharged as a patient by Health Solutions. A high up corporate decision had been made to stop seeing and treating people who have third party insurance. I am retired and insured by Medicare and I have supplemental insurance through the company I retired from. I was told they would still see me if I dropped my supplemental and replaced it with Medicaid. I wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid and I told them that I could guarantee them that they would get paid even if it wound up coming out of pocket. That didn’t matter. A new corporate policy was in place. The Health Solution personnel on the ground were very upset as they were loosing a lot of patients they were invested in, but policy was policy.
I have served on a board with a couple people high up locally and got their attention. There has been or will be a meeting of them and out of town corporate mucky mucks seeking clarification and explanation. My case will be or has been discussed. The last I heard the meeting was to take place yesterday, but I have not heard what transpired. I’m not optimistic.
In a related event Health Solutions announced that they are divesting of some mental health facilities and releasing 33 mental health personnel. I just hate it when one of my negative propheseys comes true.