Sunday's multi-story report in the Columbus Dispatch, an Illusion of Treatment, demonstrated how broken Ohio's mental health system is and how it has destroyed lives. My family is among those on an 8-month waiting list to get a psychiatrist who accepts Medicaid. We've lived the horror story of trying to get care before the Medicaid, so I'm just grateful that a) we now have it and b) we have the money to pay a psychiatrist who does not accept insurance to get the prescriptions while we stay on the waiting list.
Ohio, home to 418,000 citizens with serious mental illness, is among the 10 worst states for mental-health budget cuts. And it is obvious everywhere. In a letter sent to its known advocates, NAMI Ohio points out: "Ohioans would never tolerate this sort of heartless disregard of individuals with other serious debilitating brain illnesses such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. We at NAMI Ohio believe that the only reason we allow individuals with severe and persistent mental illness to be treated in this fashion is because voters are not aware of what's happening."
Well, that, and the fact a lot of people don't care.
NAMI has asked us to do something: Write a letter to the editor. Ask people running for office what they plan to do to fix this. Email the article. In short, "keep the issue alive." Because people are dying here.
I'm reminded of the early days of AIDS when Larry Kramer and others in New York insisted that people needed to get angry and ACT UP to get the attention the problem needed. And, frankly, advocates seeking funding for other illnesses are doing a better job at drawing attention to themselves. (Pink ribbons, anyone?) It is time to get more organized, time to get louder. Because we're running out of time. Again: People are dying here.