Statement on Death of Mental Health Patient in Psychiatric Emergency Room of Kings County Hospital
Statement by David Shern, Ph.D., President and CEO of Mental Health America
Contact: Steve Vetzner (703) 797-2588 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, VA. (July 1, 2008)-The reports today of the death of a mental health patient in the Kings County Hospital psychiatric emergency room are deeply troubling and demand further investigation to determine the root cause of this incident. Given the problems that were first raised in a federal lawsuit filed a year ago, it should also spur greater scrutiny of the hospital's administration and practices.
Mental Health America's fear is that this incident reflects a broader public attitude that devalues individuals with severe mental health conditions who are served in public systems. We call on people who share our abhorrence at these acts to continue to combat the ignorance and discrimination that still exists toward people with mental illnesses. If appropriately treated people, even with the most severe illnesses, can and will recover. Hope and respect are central components of this treatment. Devaluing people further prolongs their disability and likely contributes to the 25 years of lost life for persons with severe mental illnesses that are served in public systems.
This incident is also a tragic illustration of systemic problems in public mental health, where needed mental health care is too often provided as a last resort instead of a first response, and where medical problems too often go unrecognized and untreated.
Those systemic problems go far deeper than breakdowns in psychiatric emergency services. By their very nature, emergency services are not adequate alternatives for the many people whose illness could be managed before it becomes a crisis
Rather, this tragic incident underscores a real crisis in mental health service-delivery - the failure to invest adequately in early-intervention and other community-based services and supports, even as hospitals have reduced psychiatric bed capacity. The facts are that over two-thirds of adults and over half of children with a diagnosable mental health condition do not receive the mental health treatment and services they need. At the same time, people with serious mental illnesses served in the public system die, on average, 25 years early from preventable health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
As we discuss and debate "health care reform," these shocking data highlight the importance of making mental health reform a key component of needed health reform.
Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.