Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Patty Mojziszek: My husband didn't take his medications for his mental illness.

One of the arguments against keeping open public mental hospitals is they are expensive to operate. That is true. But in many regards closing them is more expensive.

In Illinois, if Dan Mojziszek had been forced into treatment for his serious mental illness, he would be alive today and Franklin Park (IL) would not be facing a $10 million wrongful death suit. This is the Daily Herald's account:
Police opened fire on 52-year-old Dan Mojziszek late Monday following a three-mile, low-speed chase that began in Franklin Park and ended in Northlake.

Patty Mojziszek's attorney, Frank Avila, says the family plans to file a $10 million wrongful death suit.

Avila said diabetic episodes can trigger mental illness. Mojziszek was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had undergone several stints at the Elgin Mental Health Center.

Patty Mojziszek divorced her husband in 2000 because of his mental illness and trouble with the law. She said the bipolar disorder wasn't diagnosed until after their marriage.

"His issues with the mental illness were consuming all of the money, and his court issues were growing," she said. "I thought I would end up with nothing."

Dan Mojziszek's mental illness would manifest itself in delusions and paranoia, his ex-wife said. He would make outrageous claims about the FBI and aliens.

"I would sometimes just find him sitting there alone talking about these things to himself," she said.

Patty Mojziszek said her husband "didn't take care of himself" when it came to taking medications for his mental illness and diabetes. Police interaction became routine and she found she could only relax when her ex-husband as serving time in prison.

The Topeka-Capitol Journal today is reporting on expensive upgrades in security systems at all public facilities in Kansas and Colorado in the wake of dangers posed by men with serious, but untreated mental illness.

Had Derek Potts and Aaron Snyder been under the supervision of state hospitals, Snyder would would be alive and mentally sound, Potts would not be in prison, a security guard would be alive and these expensive and inconvenient changes in security would not need to be made.
In 2007, a gunman who claimed to be an emperor, Aaron Snyder, was shot and killed by state troopers outside the office of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. A dozen tourists and state workers bore witness to the traumatic episode.

The sound of gunfire broke afternoon calm in 2004 at the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield. An unarmed guard was slain by Derek Potts, a college dropout with a history of mental illness.

These horror stories played a role in an evaluation in Kansas leading to a decision to upgrade security protocol at the Statehouse.

In Alabama, as in most states, the patients who in past generations would have been cared for involuntarily in public mental hospitals are living untreated on the streets. The Montgomery Advertiser reports on efforts of homeless shelters to try to comfort some of the severely mentally ill. The problem, of course, is the shelters are not equipped to help these untreated patients:
Somewhere between a fourth and a fifth of America's homeless are estimated to suffer from severe mental problems.

And because of these mental problems they have difficulty getting help. There are not enough mental health resources to provide them all beds, but their conditions often make it difficult for shelters to take them in.

It's not a common practice for the shelter to take in people with mental illnesses. Not with the erratic behavior they can bring with them.

"It's not so much not taking the mentally ill in, but you have these other guys ... you've got to take care of them," Tom Whitfield, the mission's director, said of the other shelter residents.

Although the National Institute of Mental Health said that only about 6 percent of America's overall population was classified as severely mentally ill in 2009, between 20 and 25 percent of America's homeless suffers from some form of severe mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Cynthia Bisbee said shelters aren't well equipped or trained to handle the special needs of people with mental illnesses.

"There are shelters here -- Salvation Army and the Friendship Mission that do fantastic work in providing shelter for the homeless -- but they are not equipped to deal with the seriously mentally ill."

"There's severe depression, schizophrenia. They burn their bridges with their families. If we bring (them) in here, it disrupts the whole system."

The mix of homelessness and mental illness affects a person's physical health -- the homeless neglect to care for themselves with adequate hygiene practices.

Serious mental illnesses disrupt people's ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self-care and household management, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Mental illnesses may also prevent people from forming and maintaining stable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others' guidance and react irrationally.

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