Sunday, November 30, 2008

GA's Republican Gov heads for the bottomless pothole of privatizing all of GA's mental health hospitals: no one learns

November 29, 2008


Mental health plan is big shift to privatization
Atlanta Journal Constitution - GA, USA

(cut and paste):

"North Carolina auditors said that state wasted $400 million after allowing unqualified private companies to perform many psychiatric treatment functions. ..."


Dear Mr. Judd and Mr. Miller, reporters at the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC):

I read w/ interest your article which outlines a great deal of hesitancy as expressed by various mental health advocate groups re: the complete privatization of GA's public mental health hospitals.

I would like to submit an Opinion piece about these matters. To whom should that be addressed? Thank you for this information.

Privatization of the public psychiatric hospitals will not work and here is why:

1. as stated by one observer in the article, you cannot make money off of mental health. The chronicity of illnesses prohibits financial success.


2. Without the addressing of the outpatient services matter, closely aligned to keeping people out of the hospital, there will simply be more of a fierce round-robin of admitting and discharging which will be destabilizing to people having serious mental health issues. The private companies will want to get people out of the hospital as quickly as possible in order to create revenue.

To suit, as evidenced by NC mental health reform:

"The state’s mental health system has been in chaos since state lawmakers passed legislation in 2001 to revamp it. While their goals of privatizing services to give consumers more choice and of getting people out of state-run hospitals and back into their communities were laudable, underfunding, poor planning and mismanagement utterly undermined the effort.

In fact, the exact opposite of the objectives has resulted. Records show that the number of mental patients checking into state hospitals for short visits grew by 83 percent from 2001 to 2005 as a result of dwindling local services and treatment space at community hospitals...."

(cut and paste):


3. The notion of privatization as being useful----specifically privatization without overviewing operations----a devil's brew or private and public interests all competing---seems to have been debunked by the recent cascade of bank failures and auto maker failures. Why GA DHHS and state legislators would fall for this is simply representative of their inability to consider anything more than the short term gain (or loss), which, specifically, is their avoidance of fixing the public psychiatric hospital system in GA.


4. I have been carefully following NC mental health reform for almost two years now as per my blog.

I am a clinical psychologist offering services under this system and I understand it better than most. Your article stated, "North Carolina auditors said that state waste(d) $400 million after allowing unqualified private companies to perform many psychiatric treatment functions."

The 'wasting' took place at the direction of NC DHHS just as the building of those psychiatric hospitals in GA is to take place vis a vis GA DHHS. The Secretary of NC DHHS for 7 + years, until she resigned amidst a clamouring for her head, was Carmen Hooker Odom, who was well supported by Dem Governor Easley for all that time.

Practitioners' hearts sank at her barrage of disorganized outlines of changes within the various Service Definitions which outlined services. Her disorganization w/ no basis in any actuarial research started in 2002 and continued thru August, 2007.

Hooker Odom did not do the actuarial studies in order to understand whether the usage of Community Support Service (CSS), a Service Definition outlining services associated with rendering in the homes of clients, mental health-oriented services, in order to improve their lives by teaching them skills as well as doing things like getting them to doctor's appointments, etc.

In reading your article what I hear is a lot of people who should know better alluding to a suspicion that should not just be bounced around to each other like a ball but rather someone needs to do the leg work to figure out if such a privatization would work.

However, just like in NC, no one wants to be the one to point to the Emperor's new clothes but would rather say, 'I told you so', when the matter fails----which it will----on some other person's watch.


Marsha V. Hammond, PhD


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