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Psychiatric Treatment: This is the best we can do?

Biggs Forensic Center image credit to missourinet.com

Biggs Forensic Center
image credit to missourinet.com

The Kansas City Star ran a piece on Saturday about the Biggs Forensic Center at Fulton State Hospital, which houses patients with mental illnesses from throughout Missouri. With portions of the building dating to the 19th century, the archaic facility is a travesty.

A few details about Biggs/Fulton:
-no air conditioning
-exposed asbestos
-kitchen equipment repurposed from a Korean War-era Navy battleship
-low ceilings that offer places for contraband to be stashed, and which provide metal strips that can be used as weapons
-construction materials that often lead to a deafening sound level. “One of the tragedies about people with serious mental illnesses,” says Keith Schafer, director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, “is that noise is one of the things that’s very hard for them to deal with. So it’s really a terrible treatment location.”
-a nursing department that is 40% understaffed
-employee worker’s compensations claims worth $4.3 million in 2013. “If an employee sticks around Fulton long enough,” says Schafer, “serious injury is almost assured.”

This is the state to which we relegate people who, due to chemical imbalance, trauma, or neurological dysfunction, suffer from serious brain illnesses. Missouri legislators “continue to debate replacing Fulton hospital.” There’s nothing to debate.

But lawmakers are too busy trying to find ways around the Affordable Care Act, which is the law of the land, passed by the process created by the glorious founding fathers they’re so fond of harking back to. These same lawmakers are too busy trying to legislate health care decisions for women. They have no time for people who need intensive, long-term treatment for brain illness.

It’s a shameful state of affairs. Human beings, by the mere fact of their existence, deserve up-to-date, safe health care, whatever their diagnosis.