Mental-illness system is broken, tired mess


You can get lithium poisoning at the Arizona State Hospital

Orgional Article in the Arizona Republic

Mental-illness system is broken, tired mess
Aug. 21, 2004 12:00 AM

My only brother was a ValueOptions victim.

He died in September 2002, from heart and kidney failure several months after going toxic on lithium. ValueOptions was supposedly monitoring him, and they "missed it."

The facility where he received treatment had no psychiatrist for the summer. Medical personnel proceeded in and out of jobs there like a revolving door, as did case managers.

There was no continuity of care.

I wrestled with the mental health system in Arizona for more than 25 years. While my brother received some good treatment with ComCare and later ValueOptions, more often than not he received substandard and occasionally abysmal care.

He was turned away and allowed to go out into the streets several times when he needed to be hospitalized for psychosis - despite my pleas, explanations of his past history and medical power of attorney.

My experience is not isolated. Family members of other patients explained that they had to lie to get mentally ill family members admitted to the hospital. They advised me to tell the screening psychiatrists that my brother was dangerous to others or suicidal. But my brother was not violent, and he mentioned suicide only after his final diagnosis.

Isn't there something wrong when active psychosis is not sufficient criterion to hospitalize a patient?

My brother admired Charles Arnold, who assisted him through the years. Arnold, who filed the Arnold vs. Sarn lawsuit in 1981 to force Arizona to improve care for mentally ill patients, seems like an army of one who needs a few good men to join the fight.

I am without my beloved brother, mostly due to the failure of a system that is miserable, tired and broken. I hope that some effective people read The Republic's article of Aug. 13, "Valley's mental care worsens, audit finds," that they "get it," and have the clout to do something about it.

I only wish that I could be more optimistic.

Rickie Allen, Phoenix



Kevin Walsh was a political prisoner who was jailed in a mental hospital by the Secret Service for his anti-Bush statements. Kevin Walsh had committed no crimes and the Secret Service had no evidence to charge Kevin Walsh with any crimes.