Blood on His Hands: Casualties of Branstad’s War On the Mentally Ill

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17 Responses

  1. I just recently got out of the psychiatric locked unit. Every where was full and they sent me to Ottumwa. I had no support system. They didn’t prescribe me meds because of all of the meds I have been on and the sensitivity I have with side effects. Literally, all they did was keep me on 15 minute watches.
    Since getting out I have struggled to find someone to take me as a client. The University of Iowa wants to define me as a new patient because I hadn’t been seen in that particular clinic. Which then means they can’t see me until April. I have medical insurance through work and some places don’t take it.
    The mental health system here in Iowa is zilch. It is scary that Brandstad is doing what he is. It is like he is saying – we aren’t important.

    • Crystal Defatte says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about that. I’ve spent time in a facility when I was much younger and I know how hard that can be, especially when it doesn’t feel like its helping. We are important, don’t forget that. I hope you find a good level of care soon.

  2. iowagerry says:

    The Ankeny chapter of AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy) has taken up Mental Health as its action project. I will forward this essay to its leaders.

  3. Sad Mom. says:

    Unfortunately, To be an Iowan child with a mental health challenge is even worse. After a 9mon. wait to be seen at the UofI we were told more testing was needed and the next apt. open was in 10 mon. We made that apt. but went to Mayo. Got in and out with in a week, diagnosis and meds in hand. 19 months in the life of anyone is a ridiculous time to wait, especially more so for a child.

    • Crystal Defatte says:

      This mother was a little older, so I assume her daughter was an adult, but she never came in so I don’t know. I can’t imagine what it’s like as a parent to have to watch your child suffer from mental illness. I’m glad your child was able to get the necessary care.

  4. Denise Counsell says:

    I am sorry you had a difficult time after moving to Iowa, but very surprised more planning didn’t go into your move. As a consumer and past provider of mental health resources I can’t imagine moving without finding continuing care. The difficulties and backlog are not that different in WI.
    In describing your situation you probably would have necessitated a voluntary hospitalization for a very short time. Speaking of utilizing one of the state beds is somewhat of a misrepresentation.
    I wish you the best and if you move again please secure a new provider before move and talk to current provider about covering the transition with three months of scripts.

    • Crystal Defatte says:

      My insurance in Wisconsin wouldn’t cover more than a month at a time, and I couldn’t set up with a new provider until I had insurance here. Cracks in the system.

      • Denise Counsell says:

        If you chose to move you have to expect there to be cracks. Would have happened with private ins that freq has a 90day waiting period, medical illness or psych. You had an option to pay out of pocket and have meds. Those issues will never change.

        • Crystal Defatte says:

          The fact that I was on Medicaid should tell you I didn’t have an option to pay out of pocket. I left a job that paid less than $12 an hour and I have three kids. There was no way I could pay out of pocket. I don’t know if you’re taking this personally and getting defensive or if you just have disdain for those with low incomes or mental illness, but excuses are inferior to solutions. You said you work in the field; perhaps you should work on being a force for change instead of making excuses? I had no knowledge of any other options, you being in a position of more knowledge of the system should probably be helping instead of arguing and blaming.

  5. Apple says:

    The mental health care delivery system I have experienced in my lifetime here in Iowa is insufficient,
    inefficient and as in your situation, at times effectively inhumane. I haven’t lived anywhere else to know if there is better, though. I will say I have better luck treating my long term “physical” illness (asthma) than mental health issues, (by their very nature more difficult to treat, not sure). Even with the best insurance.
    The mainstream media doesn’t cover this story coherently enough.
    Our governor is quite sly about pushing his Republican agenda through. Instead of improving a struggling system of delivery for mental health care, for example, he makes it worse. By stating that localized treatment in communities is more modern and appropriate, he tells a half truth. He is creating confusion in the general public by equivocating 21st century and 19th century mental health institutions. He sets the system up to fail so that he can privatize it.
    I bear my psychological pain as I don’t trust the system here and haven’t experienced better. I am lucky enough to remain functioning, but wish I could do better. I did try to admit myself once, and was told that unless I was an immediate danger to myself or others, I was on my own. So I suffered for 2 weeks with horrible pain and anguish caused by depression, and survived. Every day was excruciating by the minute and because it was a mental health issue, I couldn’t really share it with friends. It was horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Crisis lines have helped me more than psychiatrists over the years. I tell myself that suicide is not an option during bad times of the year, and my bad times pass. I am lucky in this regard, and unlucky as well, I always wish there were better options for help. Perhaps I would pursue them if they were more readily available. So there you go, Mr. Branstead and Wellmark insurance, you save some money on me, but what is the real cost? We have to stand up for this issue.

    • Crystal Defatte says:

      Your story and my own are far too often happening and yet go untold. We need to start making our voices heard. I can’t suffer in silence anymore. I still have my bad days, but I have my good days too. Some people won’t have anymore days due to our broken system. We have to speak out for them and for ourselves. Stay strong and find someone to talk to when you can’t.

    • Jean logan says:

      Broadlawns has taken over the Polk county mobile crisis team. They have nurses who can go to homes and assess people in crisis and help get them help. We have expanded services so that we can see patients almost 24 hours a day

  6. Kayla Jones says:

    I work in the field and it is just as infuriating as one might believe. We can only help those who are brought in and admitted into our inpatient units. How can we help those who need it when we only have so many beds and some of our patients await long term placement but their social worker or caretaker can’t find a bed in this goddamn state because our governor closed them down? It pushes others back who need to be seen asap and sometimes people wait days and days. It breaks my heart. Everyone is entitled to healthcare, correct? Why is mental health any different?

    • Crystal Defatte says:

      It’s got to be hard knowing you can help but you’re being limited by someone who will never understand what he’s really doing with that stroke of a pen. Thank you for the work that you do.

  7. JudyMae says:

    Oh sure Denise Counsell, it’s all her fault.

  8. I agree with Kayla. I also work in the mental health field. I worked with a client with acute psychotic symptoms who was in so much pain that they agreed to go to Broadlawns for inpatient treatment (diagnosis, medication management, stabalization). This person took the huge step of courage to present to the emergency department. Because there were no beds available, the person was given two antipsychotic med injections, a few minutes on a cot, and then let go. No referral to counselor or psychiatrist, no follow up appointment offered. What a dehumanizing experience. Many Americans fear a nationalized, single-payer health system because it might ration healthcare. That is exactly what happened to this person. Unless we time our psychiatric crises appropriately, we risk deterioration and even death. Would this happen to a victim of an auto accident? Or if it had been a member of the Governor’s family?

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