Several West Hartford mothers who are members of a support group appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday to share their experiences of the failures of the mental health system.
The segment highlighted the story of Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds, whose son Gus was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Gus attempted to take Creigh’s life just hours after Gus was turned away from a hospital because no beds were available in area psychiatric wards. After stabbing Creigh several times in the face, Gus shot and killed himself; Creigh survived the attack.
“It’s clear the system failed,” Creigh Deeds said. “It failed Gus. It killed Gus.”
During the segment, West Hartford resident Mary Jo Andrews discussed her own challenges dealing with the revolving door of emergency room care.
“There’s really no place after the hospital so the kids end up coming back home right where the situation started,” Andrews said. “And you know, the psychiatrists and the hospital will say, ‘You’re right, the system is broken’ and I remember at one discharge I refused to sign the discharge paper because I wasn’t going to agree that it was appropriate.”
The hospital discharged her child anyway.
Yale-New Haven Hospital registered nurse Brian Geyser said during the segment that insurance companies require hospital staff to call every few days, or even daily, to get reauthorization for psychiatric care.
Meg Clancy, another member of the support group, said that she had an incident with her insurance company, which wanted to discharge her daughter from the hospital, even though it may have been too early to do so.
“She needed to stay where she was safe and the insurance company would not pay and so I was told by our social worker in the hospital that if I gave my daughter up to Department of Children and Families, that then she would have insurance coverage through the state and she would be allowed to stay,” Clancy said.
Clancy said “absolutely not” to that suggestion.
Pelley asked what the difference is between mothers of children with mental illnesses and mothers of children of physical illnesses such as heart disease or cancer.
“Sympathy,” Clancy said immediately.
Geyser told Pelley what he thought was needed to ensure the safety of young people with mental illness and the wider population.
“We need to be able to set up a system where we follow these kids into the community, we follow the families, we make sure that they have a safety net, and somebody's watching them and monitoring them because, you know, it could be next month, it could be six months from now, and the child will do something again, but if they are not hooked into a system that is watching them, taking care of them, then we could have problems on our hands.”
The segment ended with Creigh Dees returning to the Virginia legislature and introducing bills to extend the mandatory time a hospital has to keep a mentally ill patient from six to 24 hours and to create a database that keeps track of all of the available psychiatric beds in the state.
The Hartford Courant’s Rick Green reported on Jan. 16 that the Connecticut legislature is expected to consider “new initiatives to address shortcomings in mental health care.”
A transcript of the 60 Minutes segment and the video of “Nowhere to Go: Mentally Ill Youth in Crisis” can be found here.Editor’s Note: Pelley noted that the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses are nonviolent. Pelley said that the segment was focusing on the small number of mentally ill people who do become violent.