Letter: The shameful lack of services for the mentally ill
As mother of a son stricken with a severe mental illness approximately 18 years ago, I ask that readers revisit the plight of these former Eastern State Hospital patients who were declared well enough to function in their own community setting.
Our son was fortunate to have a caring family welcoming him back home to his own room and a safe, clean and caring environment.
Today, our son is stable, working part-time and lives independently. He is employed by our Community Services Board as co-coordinator host for their consumer-run 84 Main, Warsaw Resource Center.
As a long-time member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), I am a passionate advocate for improved community services, especially suitable, safe and clean housing. A never-ending battle for adequate funding with threats of "cuts" in Medicaid and in other areas which fund our Community Services Board ensues, just to keep minimal community services available.
There are only a few beds left in our state hospitals. Subsequently, the jail and the prison mentally ill population continues to swell. America’s shame, as even in the best economic years, mentally ill citizens have been vastly shortchanged. They are our most vulnerable citizens. They are children of God, and it is my firm belief that God will hold America accountable for their gross neglect, which results all too often in tragedy.
In Northumberland County, the old Callao Elementary School was sold, I understand, with acreage and all for a mere $125,000. The new owner converted all building space including the multi-purpose room, into one-room with bath apartments. There are no apartment complexes available to the mentally ill who must have HUD Section 8 approval or the rest paid for out of CSB scarce funds, I understand.
For a one-room Callao Apartment to call their home each mentally ill resident shells out 30 percent of their monthly SSI check, I am told, and the total rent is $500 per month. Either HUD or the CSB picks up the remainder of the rent due
While the Community Services Board has applied for a HUD grant to build an apartment complex of 10 one-bedroom and 2 two-bedroom units in the Gloucester area, which will help that community, our CSB covers a vast 10-county area.
The solution? There must be an effort in each county to plan, solicit community support and seek any available grant opportunity—much as there was to build Mercer Place in Kilmarnock, which is a success and will open soon. Our consumers did not ask to be stricken with a brain disorder (i.e., schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar) affecting their lives. With help, many can receive treatment and function well in recovery; not cured, but stable and in recovery, to live in their own communities.
Mary Evans, RN (retired)
Vice president, NAMI Mid-Tidewater