Too often we paint leadership as something that is absent of human challenges and vulnerabilities. We must be brave to lead because our personal lives can be as challenging as professional ones. One leader, Maiden Strayer, shares her story is our guest bloggers and reminds us of that.
As the mother of an adult son who suffers from Severe Bi-Polar I Disorder with Psychotic Features, I have suffered with him through each hospitalization (20 to date), failed medication cocktail (too many to count), and each personal failure that he has experienced. I was so excited to be offered a leadership position for adolescents who need mental heth services. I believed that building and implementing this program was my purpose, for what could be greater than helping other families through the complicated system of mental health that I had traveled, and making the journey a bit easier for them? Being given the opportunity to demonstrate to others how to access the services they so desperately needed seemed to be my calling, and it still is…… But….
Frequently youth require more services than are available. Longer term inpatient treatment, for example. It does not exist except in the private sector and at a cost out of reach for the average parent. The same is true in the adult system of mental health care. Short-term crisis management and stabilization are all the rage, and are terrific when they work. When they do not work, and the symptomatic behaviors of the child or adult affect their ability to live safely in the community or with their family, what happens? Private hospitals in Michigan have the right to refuse patients who act out physically, and are belligerent and disrespectful. This results in patients languishing in emergency rooms waiting for a bed to open in any hospital that will take them, sometimes for days or weeks. There is only one state hospital for adolescents and one for adults in the entire state of Michigan. Both state hospitals currently have a 6 month to 1 year waiting list for admittance. Private hospitals are almost always short term crisis and stabilization, and cannot keep patients who require a longer stay to reach stabilization. There are virtually no placements for longer term treatment unless the family can afford to pay the cost for private care, which can exceed $30,000. If the patient has severe behavioral problems, even the private treatment centers will not accept them.
It is not enough to struggle to “work with what I have,” when the services for the most vulnerable do not exist. Remaining silent ensures that more youth will end up in delinquency placements, and more adults will be incarcerated or homeless. My son languishes in a short term crisis and stabilization hospital in Ohio, waiting for any longer term facility to take him, and he suffers from delusions and psychosis that have not been brought under control in over a week at the hospital. It is now a possibility that he will be sent by court order to the state hospital in Ohio. His behavioral issues have prevented him from being transferred back to Michigan, because of the 6-12 month wait for our state hospital, and all of the private hospitals have rejected him.
I am convinced that Michigan can and must do better. We have to move beyond conversations about the problem. We already know what the problem is. We do not have enough adequate treatment facilities for our mentally ill population. We must build another state hospital and more long term treatment facilities. The conversation now needs to be about funding and construction, not endless discussions about the problem. Michigan’s mentally ill residents need a place to go. Now.
Like Maiden, our personal lives of leaders are not endless blue skies and roses. There are clouds, thorns, and tears. Our capacity to share that vulnerability in save places keeps us going. Hopefully, Maiden found that place in this space today and forever be brave to lead.