Mental health clients rallied today against how the Quinn administration plans to transition clients out of the controversial institutions that have outraged advocates.
Deborah Rose, 49, who was institutionalized for over two decades after she was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety, watched her life change dramatically when she left a state-run institute. She said she went from seven different medications living in the Institutes of Mental Diseases (IMD) to just three medications living on her own; the move to a more independent lifestyle was something her personal doctor championed but that the IMD psychiatrists wouldn’t allow.
Rose is an example of what advocates say is an unnecessary institutionalization for people with mental diseases. After the state finally did right with the federal mandates that proclaim it to be illegal discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Gov. Pat Quinn managed to create an implementation plan for transitioning clients out of the controversial nursing homes. Advocates rallied this afternoon at the Thompson Center in Chicago to speak out against the implementation plan.
Rose used to take narcotics for pain too, but now does massage therapy and yoga instead. At the IMDs, she said, she got $35 a month to buy the most basic of things, like sanitary napkins and deodorant. Now, she gets and manages her own money, about $1,100 a month in benefits. Since she hasn’t been able to secure a rental assistance subsidy, she pays $575 in rent for her Edgewater studio, something that hasn’t been easy to afford. Still, her life has gotten so much better that even her family, which forced her into an institute, admits it was wrong for her to stay in the IMD. “[IMDs] are the worst place there ever was,” Rose said at a rally for mental health consumers. Watch her comments:
Last year, a consent decree was created in the case of Williams v. Quinn, guaranteeing the 4,500 people affected as mental health clients would have choices to transition from the 25 Institutes for Mental Disease (IMD). The IMDs, deemed inefficient and inhumane by mental health advocates and those forced to live there, are completely state funded and cost about $40,000 annually per person.
While the advocates agree the consent decree is a good thing, they also say the implementation plan does not provide the adequate support to actually leave the institutions. In fact, the plan calls for a new bureaucracy that means at least five stages of internal assessments before reaching the outside teams, according to Becca Kupferberg, an organizer with the Mental Health Justice Taskforce.
For FY 11, the state
is using 1.3 million for the start-up, most of which will be spent hiring management and professional staff, with no input from the mental
health consumers and advocates. Instead, those hired for the
program are likely to come from the IMDs who created the nursing
home environment plagued with sexual abuse scandals, cases of
over-medicating patients and stealing from them, and other inhumane
living conditions in the first place. “The state is absolving themselves
from responsibility,” Kuperferberg says of the proposed plan. “The
state knows by not consulting [us], they’re evading responsibility.”
The money spent on the program, Kupferberg says, instead should be redirected to the all-important rental assistance subsidy programs that would make it so that the people transitioning would pay only 30 percent of their monthly income for housing, and other supportive services critical to the transition. This form of ongoing recovery, Kupferberg said, would cost the state an estimated $20,000 per client a year, half of what it would cost to institutionalize them.
Jessica Patrick, 31, says she has lived in over a dozen of the state’s IMDs over the span of 17 years. She told the gathering Monday that when she sought help, she was physically, emotionally or sexually abused. At age 12, she had her first brain surgery for a tumor in the part of her brain that controls emotions that also caused her to suffer from bi-polar disorder.
Two years ago, thanks to a rental assistance subsidy, she got out of the IMDs, and now pays $159 in rent for a home all her own in Rogers Park. She gets $654 from Social Security and also lives off of her earnings from the furniture store where she works. In her spare time, Patrick volunteers at Thresholds, a nonprofit that works with people with mental illness. The freedom to manage her own money and life, she says, has helped her feel more hope than despair despite her condition, and has made her a more active part of society than the confines could ever do.
Watch her comments: