Saturday, January 30, 2016

Call to Action: Tell the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to Pass H.R. 1854 The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015

Request of my readers in the U.S.: Congressman Al Franken introduced this bill last year, the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015, which is now H.R. 1854. It is now in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. This bill supports people with mental illnesses in ways that are needed and necessary. You might have to know a bit about serious mental illnesses to understand why, but NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org), of which I am a member and a BOD member in my area, asked people to contact their House Reps. about this bill a long time ago, which I did.

And I got a phone call from DC, as Congressman David Jolly's office and I have become somewhat familiar with each other, and they told me that he not only supported the bill, he signed on as a sponsor of it (Jolly), and that he relayed my support of it, as one of his constituents, to the Judiciary Committee. Now, I tried to email the Chairman of the Subcommittee, but apparently you can't do that because the US House website is set up to only let you contact your own House Reps.
So I called. And I am asking you to call. This is a federal piece of legislation being sponsored by both sides of the aisle. Please tell them that you support adequate mental health care for people with mental illnesses, crisis training for police officers for when they handle people with mental illnesses, which they often do, to avoid unnecessary arrests and other tragedies, better treatment of people with mental illnesses caught up in the criminal justice system (mental illness is perpetually criminalized in the United States; a large portion of the homeless population ends up in jail due to being mentally ill and on the streets committing a petty offense).
We need this bill. Law enforcement academies do NOT train police officers adequately on how to handle these crisis calls, which is why the CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) program was created by a Sheriff. I am a CIT speaker and will be speaking to the Pinellas County Sherriff's department officers next month, and attending the CIT International Conference in April. This program exists because there is a critical need for programs like this throughout the country, and throughout the world.

Please tell the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations to pass this bill.


Here is the House Judiciary Committee's phone number: 202-225-3951. You're calling about H.R. 1854 The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act.

Also, please bear in mind, that while some oppressed (and mentally ill people are definitely oppressed) groups of people have a lot of allies, people with serious mental illness don't. And we don't have a lot of lobbyists. And we don't have a loud, cohesive voice because many people with these illnesses are struggling to survive on a daily basis, and some do not even know they are sick because they are too sick to have that insight and are not getting the health care they need. I was one of those people for many years, silently suffering without even knowing I was psychotic. So this community needs allies, badly. Please share this post.

Here is the list of people who ARE on the subcommittee, should you find some way of reaching them:

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Chairman; Rep. Louie Gohmert, Vice-Chairman

Rep. ChabotRep. Jackson Lee
Rep. ForbesRep. Pierluisi
Rep. PoeRep. Chu
Rep. ChaffetzRep. Gutierrez
Rep. GowdyRep. Bass
Rep. LabradorRep. Richmond
Rep. Buck
Rep. Bishop
Here you can read about HR 1854 on the Senate's page: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/993/all-info


Here is a summary of it to make things convenient for you:
Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015; 114th Congress (2015-2016)- Summary

This bill amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to authorize the Attorney General to make grants to an eligible entity for sequential intercept mapping and implementation for:

·       mental health and criminal justice stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the flow of individuals with mental illnesses through the criminal justice system, and
·       identify opportunities for improved responses, including emergency and crisis services, specialized police-based responses, and community and post-prison supervision; and
·       hiring and training personnel, identifying target populations, and providing services to reduce recidivism.

The Attorney General is authorized to award grants for:

·       veterans treatment court programs involving collaboration among criminal justice, veterans, and mental health and substance abuse agencies;
·       peer to peer services or programs for qualified veterans;
·       practices that identify and provide treatment, rehabilitation, legal, and transitional services to such veterans who have been incarcerated; and
·       training programs to teach criminal justice, law enforcement, corrections, mental health, and substance abuse personnel how to identify and respond to incidents involving such veterans.

The Attorney General is authorized to award grants to enhance correctional facility capabilities to:
·       identify and screen for mentally ill inmates;
·       assess and provide the clinical, medical, and social needs of inmates and appropriate treatment and services that address mental health and substance abuse needs; and
·       develop and implement post-release transition plans.

Adult and juvenile criminal/mental health collaboration program grants may be used to establish multidisciplinary teams that coordinate and implement community-based crisis responses and long-term plans for frequent users of crisis services.  Collaboration grant accountability requirements are established.

The Attorney General is authorized to make grants for programs that teach law enforcement personnel how to identify and respond to incidents involving persons with mental health disorders or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.

The Attorney General is directed to provide direction for programs that offer specialized training to federal first responders and tactical units in order to identify and respond to incidents involving individuals who have a mental illness.

The definition of "preliminarily qualified offender" is revised for purposes of collaboration program grants to:
·       include, in the case of a veterans treatment court program, an adult or juvenile accused of an offense who has been diagnosed with, or manifests signs of, mental illness or a substance abuse disorder;
·       remove a requirement that the person be accused of a nonviolent offense;
·       require a person to be unanimously approved for participation; and
·       disqualify a person who has been charged with or convicted of a sex offense or murder or assault with intent to murder.        Introduced in House (04/16/2015)
File: Leg Issues/ Fam in Crisis/ Summary HR 1854
Tell the House Judiciary Committe to Pass H.R. 1854 The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015

Friday, January 29, 2016

Feeling Lousy Overall: Abdominal Pain, Ovarian Cysts, Endometriosis, and Depression

Here is some promising news for those of us with any form of Schizophrenia.

It doesn't surprise me at all that they are finding a genetic component. Other things I've read recently about the link to Schizophrenia and the immune system are not surprising either. But I don't remember where I found that stuff. I have heard that for years anyway. I also already knew it, from my own life. It was no coincidence my mental health issues also included physical issues, at the same time. I have always suspected this, but now I am sure of it.

These days all of it is a mess. Thanks to my crappy pharmacy, which is a small pharmacy that I only use because they package meds into weekly packs where your meds are already sorted for you, I had a problem and didn't have my Pristiq for six days. This is because, the pharmacy had the prescription, which I handed to the pharmacist, and a week and a half later, when I picked up my meds (all of my meds, supposedly) for the entire month, I figured the Pristiq would be in there as it should be, as I had been told it would be. But that night, I discovered it wasn't. And of course, this little pharmacy is not open on weeknights or on weekends, at all. So I had to wait until Monday to ask them where my Pristiq was. At which time, some young woman tells me, "Your insurance won't pay for it because it's written for two pills and they will only pay for one pill." I said, "Um, what are you talking about? That makes no sense. My doctor increased the dosage. That means they should cover it." She kept saying the same thing over and over, never explaining it in any kind of intelligible language. It simply was illogical. Also, she didn't bother to explain why THEY NEVER TOLD ME THIS when they had my prescription in their pharmacy for a week and a half before I ran out of the old bottle! She told me, "You need to get your doctor to write a new prescription." #1 You had my prescription in your pharmacy for a week and a half and you never told me this. # 2 You never called the doctor. #3 You are now telling me it is my problem that I have to deal with by getting a new prescription, as if that is some simple thing to do, when I have been out of my medication for days!

So I said, "I want you to transfer my prescription to Walgreens, and I will have it filled there." (Walgreens is the pharmacy I used to go to, for many years, where they know how to actually run a pharmacy in a competent manner).  She said, "Ok, well you will have to give me the phone number." I call her back with the phone number. She says, "Ok, well we can't call Walgreens, you will have to have them call us."

Um, OK. So I call Walgreens, at which time I talk to a decent pharmacist, who I knew when I went there for years. He explained that the insurance probably wouldn't cover 50 mgs at 2 tablets a day, but would cover one 100 mg tablet a day. This has something to do with Pristiq, and the way it works and that it is a brand name drug. I don't know why this is the case, but of course he did, and he at least explained this, unlike the imbecile I talked to at my pharmacy.

So then, I set about on my task of contacting my doctor's office. For three days. Literally, all day Monday, I called my psychiatrist's office. Repeatedly, I left messages for the medical assistant, explaining the situation, and asking her to call me back. She never called me back. She also never answered her phone. So the next day, I had my therapy appointment. It was at the practice's other location. So my therapist, while I was in her office, since I had been without my medication for five days, and she knew this was clearly a problem (and she is a good therapist) called the other office and said to them that she wanted the medical assistant to call me back at 12:00 when my appointment ended. The woman never called. I called and left another message, but by this point, I was so depressed, and in so much physical pain, for reasons I will explain later, I was immobile.

On Wednesday, knowing I was barely functioning at all, after my psychiatrist's office first disconnected me and then never answered the phone because I got busy signals every time I called after that (about five times), I called my therapist on her cell phone. I don't usually do that. But I left her a message and said, "Look, I really need my medication, and this woman will not call me back or answer her phone, and I have now gone without my medication for six days. Is there someone I can talk to above her?" She called me back and said that she had called someone for me, and then that woman called me. That woman got my prescription called into Walgreens that day. I had to go to work in the mean time - sans medication - but I picked it up on my way home. So now I have had it for two days.

The other thing that has been going on is physical pain. I have mentioned before that I have Lupus, another autoimmune disease most people have never heard of called Sjogren's Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and some other conditions, including hypothyroidism, and Endometriosis.I don't talk about this often, but I also have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. And IBS is frequently found in women with Endometriosis or frequently misdiagnosed in women who really just have Endometriosis. Incidentally, I was diagnosed with most of this stuff in my 20's, so if you think I am exaggerating, I am talking about junk I have been dealing with for 20 years, except for the Lupus diagnosis, which was missed until I was in my 30's. And if you think I'm a hypochondriac, I've literally been through just about every kind of medical test a person can imagine having to go through in her lifetime for various reasons, so please do not say anything like that to me. The reason most people do not realize I actually have physical health problems is that I don't "look sick" and I don't talk about being sick all the time, since nobody wants to hear about it, especially in my family where they choose to believe that I have nothing wrong but mental illness, as if it is impossible to have both physical and psychiatric problems at the same time, which is incredibly stupid.

Last year, I went  through a time period of horrible abdominal pain. I was having constant abdominal pain for months, and then blood appeared in my stool, so I had to see a gastroenterologist and have a colonoscopy, something I had been through before when I was younger, and an endoscopy, which I had also been through before. They found an irritated stomach and internal hemorrhoids, but nothing considered serious. Around the same time, I had excruciating pain around my right ovary area and throughout my pelvic region. I ended up having to get a couple of  tests for that too, one test I don't remember the name of where they put saline in while they do something to test for uterine cancer because it was found that the wall of my uterus was thickened (a sign of endometriosis and also a sign of PCOS), and I was tested for Ovarian Cancer too, because of a large cyst found on my ovary, so I had an ultrasound, of course, to look at the cyst, and a blood test C-125 that is only used to screen for Ovarian Cancer. Because I was a little delusional and paranoid at the time, this all caused me to become completely convinced I was dying of cancer, which was not helpful for either my mental health or for the way doctors treated me. My doctor discussed doing surgery. I almost had her do it, but I was trying to manage work and things, and didn't want to have to take a lot of time off work. I also had a laparoscopy surgery before for endometriosis (in 2005) and that was a bad experience, because it was done when I was completely psychotic, undiagnosed, and unmedicated for mental illness, so I thought I was actually having a surgery to have a dead fetus removed from my body, and I woke up screaming in that hospital in 2005 after the anaesthesia wore off, "Did you get the DEAD BABY OUT??!! WHY DIDN'T YOU GET THE BABY OUT??!! GET THE BABY OUT!!!" You would think someone would have thought to refer me to a psychiatrist at that point, but people aren't that helpful sometimes.Understand, at this time, I had been under the delusion for four years that I was pregnant with a dead baby and that I was a "Breeder" for the New World Order who was forcibly impregnated via rape inside a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, I was going through very REAL pelvic pain, and a distended abdomen and gastrointestinal problems, none of which were imaginary, and all of which added to my delusion that I was pregnant.

Anyway, last year I went on birth control again for a while to make the cyst go away, and then eventually the pain seemed to end. But I had to go off birth control, eventually, because once again I became very depressed, and was afraid the hormones in it were adding to that. Then I developed those bladder problems. I had frequent urinary tract infections, and am still having them, and was referred by the gynecologist to a urologist. I was then tested and diagnosed with urinary retention, but the urologist didn't know what was causing it, so he simply blamed it on my psychiatric medication, and said that I would have to take some additional medications for the rest of my life if I couldn't go off my psychiatric medicatations. Those additional medications didn't work, and I didn't like the way this old white, male doctor dismissed me as if I was stupid for wanting to know what was actually causing this problem in the first place, so I went to a female urologist. She said I still had the urinary retention, despite that medication, which wasn't helping, and that I would need to go off my psychiatric medications or get a catheter. I went off Trazadone. The next time I saw her, she said I didn't have urine backed up in my bladder, and I had gotten better. But then the problem came back, and I'm still not taking Trazadone. So I have urinary retention and frequency now, but there is no known reason for it and I'm not going to deal with people who tell me "go off yoru psychiatric drugs or use a catheter every day".

Additionally, all my IBS symptoms have been really bad for months. I've been taking everything from Fiber Con (generic), to Miralex, to Dulcolax for chronic constipation, and in the hospital they had me drinking disgusting bottles full of magnesium citrate back in October. I have a lot of abdominal pain, every day, all the time. And now, the pain the ovarian areas is back, on the right side, just like before (last year) and on the left side. I have no doubt that all of this is related to endometriosis. Another possibility, which was discussed by the gynecologist I had back in 2005, when I was psychotic was PCOS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which would explain possibly why I have gained thirty pounds in three months. Ovarian cysts can cause many problems, GI problems, weight gain, etc.

So at this point, I need to see my gynecologist, but I can't, because I have no money for the copay. I actually have no money at all, for gas or food or for my phone bill, which is due in two days. I bought a lot of books I thought I would sell, and no one ended up buying them via this website or via Ebay, so that was a waste that didn't pay off, but besides that, things have just been tight because I did not work in December, as the college where I work was closed. So, basically, now I'm stuck in a bad situation.

Yesterday was my birthday. Unlike last year, when I turned 40 and had a big party, which gave me a lot of fond memories, this year I didn't do anything at all to celebrate my birthday with anyone. After all, I threw that party last year for my own self, so it wasn't exactly just something that happened. I invited a lot of people too. Most of them are people I barely know and hardly ever see.

Anyway, I got some nice ecards and Facebook messages, and a pen in the mail from my friend L. who is a writer and believes in my writing ability for my birthday thus year. So that's nice.

I'm really in a lot of physical pain and battling depression, fatigue, and feeling overwhelmed, so things are kind of rough.

Since the "recovery specialist" doesn't do anything helpful and doesn't know anything about mental illness, I told them not to send her anymore. There's no point in waiting for someone to show up, stand here for a couple minutes talking about her cat, and then leave. This is not "psychosocial rehabilitation",  which is what they actually call it. It's just pointless.

Friday, January 22, 2016

How the Lack of Funding for Mental Health Care Affects People Like Me



In 2005, when I started writing this blog, it was called "Suicidal Yet Sane", because I truly believed I was, indeed, completely "sane", and it was full of my rantings about the impending, or currently occurring second Holocaust - in the U.S. - and how "they" were after me, and how I just had no choice but to commit suicide. I was, then, undiagnosed, severely psychotic, and severely dangerous to my own self.

This culminated in almost shooting myself, a fact which I have written about here numerous times. And then, luckily, after I was taken to the hospital in handcuffs by police, I was committed under the long-term form of the Baker Act, Florida's involuntary commitment law - to six months in a psychiatric hospital program called SRT. SRT was short-term rehabilitation. It was a step-down from the state hospital. SRT saved my life, because, unlike all of my other, many, hospitalizations in previous years when I was let loose to live on my own accord with no follow-up care and taking no medication, in SRT I was kept inside the hospital and on antipsychotic, antidepressant, anti-anxiety drugs, and mood stabilizers, for months, every single day. I had, really, no choice about it. That was what saved my life. Having no choice about it. A lot of people think involuntary commitment is a civil rights violation. I think leaving people languishing in mental torment, going through homelessness, being victimized by violent criminals, unable to protect themselves, suicidal and a danger to themselves, constantly terrorized by paranoia and hallucinations is a civil rights violation. I think involuntary commitment can save people from that when people are, as I was, too sick to know they are sick, and is, therefore, needed in many cases. And not just for three days. The regular Baker Act is only good for three days. In three days, you cannot get stabilized on psychiatric medication. There is, really, no point in keeping someone in a hospital for three days if they have a biological mental illness. It takes weeks or months for medications to work. Three days does nothing. I have seen the revolving door myself, and witnessed people who leave hospitals after three days, only to come back in worse shape than before. In fact, I was, actually, such a person before.

But in 2005, because of the long-term Baker Act, which required a judge committing me in a hearing, and because of the SRT program, I became stable enough to function for the first time in seven years. I had not, before then, had one day or even one hour when I was not completely psychotic in seven years. I will say that again, for seven years, every single hour of every single day, I was completely psychotic, untreated, and undiagnosed. Then, because I was forced under the law to stay in a long-term hospital program, and because that program existed, I was able to become stable and gain insight into the fact that I had a mental illness, gain awareness of reality, gain stabilization, and gain the ability to safely leave the hospital without wanting to die.

That was the first time that happened. I had many other hospitalizations in the preceding seven years where that did not, at all, happen. Those hospitalizations occured, not only in Florida, but also in Virginia, Washington D.C., and New Jersey. In every instance, I was released under the care of nobody but myself, from those hospitals in those other instances. In 2005, I was not released. I was literally forced to stay and forced to take medication I didn't think I needed to take at first (once it started to work, of course, I knew I needed to take it).

Just a few years after the SRT program saved my life, the Florida legislature, in all its right-wing, conservative wisdom, decided to slash the funding for the SRT programs completely, and get rid of them. The program I went to was shut down. It wasn't replaced with anything else. It was just made obsolete. As I have mentioned before, not only here, but on Facebook, and in letters to my legislators, today, if a person who is floridly psychotic for years needs help, if they almost shoot themselves and are stopped by the police, if they cannot possibly be helped by three days in a hospital, well, it's too bad for them, because there is no such thing as SRT anymore here. If you don't qualify for the state hospital, you are lucky to get a week in a regular psychiatric hospital or crisis stabilization unit. You will never get six months, in most instances. I needed six months. Some people were in SRT for more than a year or even two. They needed to be there. It saved their lives and gave them their ability to function in the world back.

This, frankly, pisses me off. It is all because Florida ranks 49th, and according to one advocate recently quoted in the Tampa Bay Times, we should now be considered 50th, out of the 50 states, in mental health funding. In other words, in the state where I live, mental health services are deplorable. The most needed services do not even exist anymore.

From 2005 to 2012, I had a case manager. She was supposed to close my case after I had not been in a hospital for a year, because that was the guideline, due to the lack of funding, but she consistently fought to keep my case open, and the agency listened to her, and kept it open. Then, she, finally, left the agency. And they closed my case. Because, at the time, I had not been in the hospital in four years. You were not supposed to qualify for case management after you had been out of the hospital for one year. So, I was very lucky I had my case manager for seven years. I was very lucky she fought for me. I was very lucky she told the people in the agency how much trouble I had with daily functioning, and that they listened to her. She was a real advocate.

After they closed my case, there was no reason to keep going to that agency. Every year that I was there, I got a new doctor. Not on a yearly basis, but it just happened that in about seven years I had about eight different doctors. This was because, due to the lack of funding, they couldn't get most doctors or nurse practitioners to work there, and if they did get them to work there, those people did not stay for long, especially once they found someplace to work that paid better, such as the Veterans Administration, for example. My last doctor there was the best doctor in the whole place, and the best one I had ever had, and he was the medical director. He left to go work for the VA, like many other mental health professionals have done. They leave community mental health because there is, frankly, no money to be made in community mental health, and community mental health is overloaded with cases. There are waiting lists to see doctors, therapists, and case managers in community mental health centers across Florida. I know there are waiting lists in the agencies I have been to. I was on the Consumer Advisory Board for the agency where I had the case manager and the eight doctors, and I spoke up about how bad things were. We tried to change things, but there was little we could do. We were fighting a broken system.

I have written numerous letters to my Senators and Representatives in Congress and in the Florida House and Senate, over the years, and even letters to the County Commissioners. I wrote them to say, "Hey, we have a crisis in mental health funding in this state, and it has directly impacted me and other people like me, and I am a voting citizen, whose voice matters". Of course, the letters did no good.

The fact is, the voters in Florida don't care about mentally ill people. They vote, consistently, for politicians who do not care about mentally ill people or about mental health care. They vote, consistently, for politicians who slash funds for all social services. Most voters in Florida are more concerned with paying no state taxes than they are with helping citizens. We have no state taxes in this state, which is why a lot of people move here in the first place.

In the seven years when I had my personal advocate/ case manager, I was only hospitalized one time. In the three years since she left and my case was closed, I have been hospitalized four times. I spent about a month in the hospital each time. One time, I spent weeks in the hospital, followed by several weeks in outpatient hospitalization. During this time, because I had referred myself, I had these recovery specialists, at the community mental health agency that owns my apartment building, since the other agency had closed my case, and I knew I needed help. Note, I said I referred myself. That is a fact. The woman who ran the program came to speak at a NAMI meeting, and I knew that woman from when I lived in a group home, and I called her and referred myself to her program. Because, at the time, I thought I was going to get something like the case manager I had before. But that never happened. The recovery specialists are not case managers, and do not have the training or the time to be case managers. So they really cannot help me with anything.

The agency that owns my apartment has a total of two case managers. They have hundreds of clients. Hundreds. They have hundreds of apartments they own, filled only with people who have mental illnesses. None of those people qualify for case management there. I was told this directly by someone there yesterday. She said the only people who qualify for the two case managers they have are the people who live in group homes. I do not live in a group home, and have not since 2006.

But why did I stay out of the hospital so much for the seven years when I had my wonderful case manager? Every week she called me, if I didn't call her first. Every month, either she visited me here, or I talked to her in her office. Usually, she visited me in my apartment. When my apartment was a disaster, and I didn't want to let her in, she demanded that I let her in, and because she was never judgemental about my mess, I did let her in. And she would help me clean up the mess, which was not in her job description. I know I have said all this before here, but not everyone reads every post. Some people will be finding this blog for the first time, when they read this post, and will not understand this issue.

It is bizarre that the fact that the woman helped me stay out of the hospital was used to try to get her to close my case, because, the fact I was not hospitalized made me disqualified for her services. But, as my friend who is on pretty much every mental health advocacy board there is around here has said, they (the powers that be) do not understand the need for wrap-around services and there is no funding for them. After they closed my case, and after my doctor I liked left, and after my therapist left the community mental health agency, I also left. And then, after that, they laid off all of the case managers. From what I have heard, the case managers were taken into a room and told that they could not contact any of their clients to tell them they were leaving, but that this was the end of their jobs. Because of the lack of funding. I heard about this from someone who worked there at the time. In other words, all those dozens of people who had been relying on regular contact with case managers were, abruptly, cut off from contact with them, with no explanation from them about it. Because they were not given the opportunity to inform their clients about the situation. So then, who did these people rely on for support? No one. That's who. I am willing to bet that hospitalizations in this population had a marked increase after that happened. I am willing to be that, after the SRT program closed, more people died by suicide, or ended up in jail, or ended up in and out of the county crisis stabilization unit repeatedly, or in and out of other psychiatric wards and hospitals repeatedly, or just ended up languishing in mental torture for years on end, unabated, undiagnosed, untreated, and not given the help they have the human right to receive.

Florida is a horrible state to live in if you have a serious mental illness. I, unfortunately, don't have any financial means of leaving here or any supports in any other states, so I am stuck here. But, pretty much every year in Florida, the mental health budget is cut. Funding has not increased in over a decade. Population has, of course, increased. People who are homeless move to Florida for the warmer weather, and many homeless people have mental illnesses. In the city where I live, they actually started demolishing or locking up all the bathrooms in public parks so that homeless people could not use them, as a way to criminalize homelessness, and somehow get rid of homeless people. This forces homeless people to go to the restroom outdoors like dogs, and I have seen evidence of this in a local park. After I saw that, I wrote a petition about the issue, and sent it to the city council and the mayor, after over 1,000 people signed it. The Mayor of Clearwater wrote me an email stating that the homeless problem was being addressed by this shelter that was opened a few years ago on the other side of the county. That shelter is adjacent to the county jail, and was actually only opened in the first place to divert homeless people who were arrested for petty crimes, like, for example, public urination, to the shelter next to the jail instead of inside the jail. However, that shelter is far away from where I live, and is in no way accessible to people who lack transportation. This, to me, is not a reason to lock up public bathrooms or demolish them. Criminalizing homelessness as if people have done an actual crime by not having the money to keep a roof over their heads is utterly ridiculous, but this is another thing my part of Florida is infamous for doing. And a lot of mentally ill people who end up homeless, and do not get the help they need, end up in jail. I did my entire senior seminar project for my BA degree on this topic last year.

The lack of funding for mental health in the U.S. and in Florida particularly has direct effects on people like myself. But the public at large, frankly, just doesn't care at all.

The agency where I now get recovery specialists has received complaints from me because, I guess rather naively, I expected them to be hiring people who were able and willing to help me somehow. But they have assigned three people to me in the past three years who were all probably below 22 years old, extremely inexperienced, and obviously not interested in helping with anything. I say this here because it is true. I had one of them having me sign paperwork claiming she was teaching me how to cook, but she never taught me how to cook anything. I asked her to teach me to cook some things, because I don't know how to cook much of anything at all. She never did that. I told her I had problems with Social Security happening every time I saw her. She never helped me deal with that. This went on for a year. She was supposedly visiting me when my apartment was overriden with fleas to the extent that, as soon as I ended up, again, in the hospital, and maintenance and my brother came into my apartment, they reported that their legs were crawling with fleas. The agency then threatened to evict me, because I had this flea problem, and because I had no money to pay for the professional pest control they wanted me to pay for to spray my apartment and my neighbors' apartments. Meanwhile, while I was in my apartment, staring at the wall, doing nothing but hearing auditory hallucinations, where was the person who was supposed to be checking on me? She was not there.

So, from inside the hospital, I begged her supervisor to help me so I would not be evicted. And then that was done. It was only done because it was quite obvious that if anybody had actually been showing up to check on me, they would have known my apartment was in shambles and I wasn't functioning. I was severely psychotic and suffering from the negative symptoms of psychosis, which include a lack of an ability to think or feel emotions. I did not even have any awareness that there was a flea problem at all. I adore my cats. If I had ever, normally, thought they may have fleas, and I was functioning, obviously, I would not have allowed that continue. But I was so sick, I really needed help. And I was not getting help. I was getting nothing. So that's how I ended up with the same agency that was supposedly helping me threatening to evict me. I understand they can't hire the best people, because, with the lack of funding, nobody wants to work for low paying mental health jobs who might actually have the qualifications and experience to be good at the job. This has become blatatntly obvious to me. I finally got a fourth recovery specialist, who was supposed to work alongside the third one, three months ago, when I was in the hospital, and my apartment was again in shambles. This happened because both I and the hospital social worker called the manager of the program that provides recovery specialists and told her I needed someone to come see me a lot more than once every three months. I said, I needed someone to come every week.

So for a little while, two people were coming, one each taking every other week. The new one had experience. She was there for three months, and now, like most of the mental health professionals I have ever come across in community mental health, she is moving on to a better position. She was the only one who seemed to have any knowledge at all about mental illness or interest in actually assisting me with things like, asking me one time if I had taken a shower recently, which was a pertienent question for someone to ask if someone was trying to help me when I had not taken one in three days. But the other ones either do not have the knowledge or simply do not care enough to ask questions like that. So they come here, stand (never sit on my furniture) and chat nonchalantly about nothing except my cats or something thath as nothing to do with mental illness at all, then leave. This is not helpful. This does nothing to help me. Somebody calling my doctor and telling him it looks like I haven't done my dishes in weeks would be help. Somebody calling me every week like my old case manager did would be help. Somebody calling the Social Security Department for me, like my old case manager did, would be help. This is never done by these people. That is why I have complained. Now they think I am the bad guy because I have complained. I am simply asking for the help that I need, that is all. A lot of people like me do not possess the insight to know how to even do that. A lot of people are not assertive enough to EVER do that, when they have a serious mental illness. But I have learned to be assertive. So, yes, I have complained. And, of course, now they dislike me for it.

The other day it was 38 degrees outside and my heat was broken. That morning, I had called the maintenance department to report that my heat was broken and that it was cold outside and it was going to get even colder at night. Then the recovery specialist came, and I showed her that it was broken. I then went to a doctor's appointment and following that, I went to work. When I came home that evening, the heat was still broken. It was freezing in my apartment. I had to go buy a small space heater, putting my bank account into the negative because I actually had no money, in order to sleep in my apartment, where I pay rent to live, that night, because when I called the after-hours maintenance line at 7:30 PM I was told they would come out the next day. Meanwhile, in the area, homeless people were being bussed to shelters so they would not freeze to death. But the mental health agency couldn't send someone to fix my heater. So I complained about that too. I was told "being cold is not an emergency" and "maintanence cannot come out in the middle of the night to fix things that are not emergencies". I had not made the request in the middle of the night, I had called at 11:00 AM and again at 7:30 PM. And 38 degrees actually IS more than just me feeling cold and wanting some extra help. It was freezing. My cats were even freezing. This is the state of affairs with community mental health agencies around here. I was told yesterday that lots of people in my building had broken heaters, as if that, somehow, made it okay that I had no heat. Obviously, all of this goes back to the lack of funding. The people who could do a good job, who could manage places like this well, who could care about the clients, who could provide an adequate number of staff, are not there. Because there is no money.

My advice to anyone in the U.S. who has a mental illness is to NEVER move to Florida.