Today’s opinion piece by guest columnist Eleanor Owen [“Psychiatric boarding of mentally ill needs to end,” Opinion, Jan. 21] and Brian M. Rosenthal’s story on how hospitals are responding to the threatened loss of funding if boarding continues [“Kirkland hospital to change procedures for ‘boarding’ mentally ill,” Local News, Jan. 21] are deserving of greater attention.
Owen’s cry to face “reality” comes up short. More admissions and longer admissions to state hospitals is a shortsighted remedy and would require immense amounts of money that could be better spent. After hospitalization, what follows at discharge? Discharge to an already overburdened and underfunded outpatient system? How does that help?
Numerous research-based treatments and services have emerged that make a dramatic difference in the lives of those with mental illnesses while achieving savings in the public system of care. Sadly, these treatments and services have never been adequately funded. This results in numbers of people going without help that is known to make a difference and help that can be delivered much less expensively than hospitalization.
What if we moved toward a reality of a fully funded mental-health system? The result would be better care, reduced need for hospitalizations or boarding, lower costs and moving people into their own lives. That is a reality worth working toward. I invite all of us to do it.
Jonathan R. Beard, president National Association of Social Workers-Washington chapter