Ensure early diagnosis to prevent needless suffering
In his column, Jonathan Martin wrote about correctional facilities trying to fill cracks caused by a broken mental-health system [“Mental health in prisons: It’s a crime,” Opinion, Oct. 19]. That’s not the way it should be.
We as a society need to recognize that mental illness is a brain disease that should be treated like any other disorder of a vital organ. Providing early and effective intervention and continuity of care well before the potential for incarceration is critical. This approach would certainly be more economical and humane than incarceration. The people falling through those cracks, after all, are our relatives, neighbors, friends and colleagues.
Medical experts agree mental-health recovery is achievable, but patients and their families often do not realize that mental illness is treatable. Even after diagnosis, many patients become “lost” during the transition from inpatient to outpatient treatment. According to a 2010 Medicaid study, 41 percent of patients with schizophrenia didn’t receive psychiatric follow-up in the month following hospital discharge.
It impacts the bottom line: People with schizophrenia represent 1 percent of those with mental illness but account for 4 percent of health-care spending. To be more cost-effective, tax dollars would be better spent on the front end — on prevention, treatment and services — as opposed to incarceration.
But it’s not just an economic issue; it’s about how we define ourselves as a society. Our ultimate goal must be to ensure early diagnosis, and access to treatment and services to prevent needless suffering. Only by ensuring that all patients receive the services and treatment they need, can we offer these individuals a chance to become functioning, contributing members of society.
Michelle Kramer, Titusville, N.J.