A multi-partisan discussion of criminal justice reform — among Democrats, Republicans and billionaire philanthropists ranging from the libertarian Koch Brothers to the liberal George Soros, who are financing reform efforts — includes the question of what to do about people with mental illnesses who wind up behind bars, including for minor, non-violent offenses.
In its most recent report, released in 2017, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 14% of a yearly count of roughly 2.3 million convicted state and federal prisoners and 26% of jailed pre-trial detainees “met the threshold for serious psychological distress.” By comparison, during that same period, mental illness had been diagnosed in 5% of the U.S. population of comparable race, age and gender of those incarcerated persons. Continue reading
A Philadelphia police officer’s recent, fatal shooting of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr., as he wielded a knife, dramatized how, according to the numbers, those with mental illness are less likely to do harm than to be harmed, including by law enforcement.
In its most recent report on this topic, “Overlooked in the Undercounted,” the national Treatment Advocacy Center said persons with mental illness were 16 times more likely than those without mental illness to be killed during encounters with law enforcement. While the mentally ill account for 1 in 50 adults, they are estimated to represent 1 in 4 adults who are approached by police, the center’s researchers wrote. Continue reading
Consider this: COVID-19 has hospitalizations and deaths among those over 65 are five and 90 times higher respectively than in those 18 to 29, according to the CDC. The rate also is a whopping 13 and 630 times higher among the 85 and older cohort than among younger people. Take into account that while adults 65 and older account for 16% of the U.S. population, they comprise 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the nation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Continue reading
Coming up in my particular neighborhood in Little Rock, Ark., one of my dearest childhood friends was a boy we nicknamed something unflattering but — except for the meanest among us kids — treated with great kindness. He was “just slow,” we said, and left it at that.
The armchair analyst in me concluded, when we were teens, that my friend was mildly retarded (in the vernacular of that time). He also suffered sometimes-paralyzing bouts of depression. All these decades later, he remains a beloved treasure. I call him brother. He’s still a fixture in our hometown neighborhood, self-medicating with weed and, sometimes, crack. He’s snaggle-toothed, his skin an ashen gray. He looks way older than the rest of us. People with chronic, severe mental illness tend to die earlier than the rest of us. Continue reading
A new analysis of racial disparities in end-of-life care finds that Black patients voluntarily seek substantially more intensive treatment, such as mechanical ventilation, feeding tube insertion, kidney dialysis, CPR and multiple emergency room visits in the last six months of life, while white patients more often choose hospice services.
The study’s researchers say the findings demonstrate the disparities seen in seeking end-of-life care in the U.S., despite an overall increase nationwide toward the use of hospice care regardless of diagnosis, but especially for non-cancer deaths. Continue reading
One of the nation’s most interesting, patient- and media-friendly medical organizations next week will focus on a topic more relevant than ever during a pandemic. The annual meeting of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), which starts Monday as a virtual event, will focus on “Transforming Education and Practice to Improve Diagnosis.” Continue reading