Thursday, August 13, 2009


How would you like to wait for six days in the emergency room for a bed in the hospital to open up for you? What if another sixteen people were on the waiting list and you had no idea when you would get a bed? To make matters worse, what if you had not agreed to be hospitalized, but were being involuntarily committed because of a psychiatric condition? Would you like to be told we are holding you and treatment is coming someday? This is a real situation happening to a real person in the county in which I live in North Carolina.
Sheriff John McDevitt of Burke County, NC is quoted as saying, “The real issue to me and the real issue that I think is being missed here is, six days ago this patient needed some mental health care and she certainly hasn’t received any mental health care looking at a deputy.” That quote was in the August 12, 2009 issue of The News Herald along with a picture of a deputy sitting in the hallway of the emergency room of Grace Hospital in Morganton, NC.
Sheriff McDevitt said Broughton Hospital (the state psychiatric hospital that happens to be located in this county) had “bent over backwards” so it was clear he was not blaming them. He said there were no beds at Grace, which is a community hospital, and none across the state in other state psychiatric hospitals.
This is not just a North Carolina issue. It is an issue across the country. It was an issue before the economy went south and now it is a real crisis.
My biggest fears are the cuts in children’s services. I am not saying adults, the elderly, and veterans are not important, but children’s mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities programs are especially vital. They cannot fend for themselves at all. You say they have their parents. Not all of them do and even if they do that does not mean that early treatment is not still vital to their recovery journey. The long-term results of failing to respond to their needs now cannot be measured in dollars, but it will cost more then than now.
Eunice Kennedy Shiver who died this week was from a famous family that included her brothers President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Senator Edward Kennedy. She founded the Special Olympics and the first games were held in Chicago in 1968 just weeks after the assassination of her brother Sen. Robert Kennedy. Her brother Sen. Edward Kennedy has spent many hours on legislation to help the disabled.
Faith communities must step up in this time of national crisis and stand with those with disabilities. Most being the poorest of the poor and the least able to take care of themselves. If this is not who Jesus ask us to reach out to then who is?

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