Sunday, January 11, 2009


New York State is about to treat our mentally ill drug addicts very differently.

For too long, treatments have been handled separately, leaving one or the other to deepen and render recover less likely. People struggling both with mental illness and substance abuse don't get treatment for both conditions at the same time. What happens is the opportunity for relapse increases, causing a discontinuation of treatment and, in some cases, suicide.

I bring this up because I've just read about a rethinking on this flaw and the placement of Michael Hogan as New York State's Commissioner of Office of Mental Health.

His mission? To join the efforts of the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services and the Office of Mental Health.

The numbers are staggering. I read that over a million New Yorkers experience both mental illness and substance abuse while in the system.

My friends who work in the Mental Health industry, tell me there are a high number of patients who slip right back to an untenable state after leaving drug rehab simply because their other needs were not addressed.

I know I just posted a piece on the financial mishaps at Benedictine, but both hospitals provide quality services in these fields, although separately. I guess this will change all that.

Michael Hogan said in a recent article; "We have roughly three suicides a day in New York; 90 percent of whom we know from psychological autopsies had a mental illness at the time. And it's not just mental illness, it's very often drinking or drug use."

Gov Paterson recruited Hogan after learning of his years of service in Ohio, Connecticut and serving President Bush in his Mental Health think tank established back in 2002. The idea was to merge agency programs that would suit individual needs with the elimination of the wasted overlap in services. Thus saving money and lives.

When you think about it. Why did this “clash of program” issue linger for so long and where were the health care providers when the continued numbers of failures materialized year after year?

I know a family here in Kingston who lost their son in his 30's because of the befuddled method of treating the two issues separately. It may be a few years, but the system in its current form, was partly to blame. Medicaid simply didn't pay for him to get both kinds of help at once and the family lost a loved one because of it.

I found another quote from Hogan: "If you were going to treat people with both sets of problems, you would have to go to both sets of agencies and get two different licenses, you'd have to have two different waiting rooms. You would even have to have two different bathrooms, for Pete's sake."

Well, no more. The services will be integrated at the 1,200 mental health and substance abuse outpatient treatment centers here in NY. Including the facilities that handled the patient I mentioned.

I applaud Governor Paterson for appointing Michael Hogan and letting this integration of agencies prevail. We all know friends and family members who may have or will suffer through this nightmare at some point, so seeing this come to this point is a relief and hopeful.


Anonymous said...

As an employee in one of the facilities you mention, I applaud you for thinking this is worthy of public address.
All too often, I would witness examples of what you speak of and feel frustrated that the system works against people I have come to know through the programs. Everyone deserves a fighting chance for full recovery.

I knew nothing of the impending change in handling the dual affliction until a few weeks ago and I am cautiously optimistic of its success. Change is difficult for many people but it has to happen.

Anonymous said...

Hogan is a good man, knows the health care industry like he built it himself. I expect a good attempt from him. Lets give Bush credit for picking him back then.