The response of his colleagues to the Murphy Bill in the Cromnibus Bill was to put it charitably less than overwhelming. The media, which has seemingly had Rep. Murphy on speed dial, seemed to think Senator Warren was the news. Not only was Rep Murphy not newsworthy, he was not even noteworthy. And all of this the day before the Newtown anniversary.
And it makes me think. Perhaps Murphy is not quite yet ready for coronation as savior of all things mental health.
Let me use Tennessee as an example to make a point.
The mental health budget in Tennessee could possibly be cut as much as 7%. That cut will affect the welfare of thousands and thousands of people. In addition, Tenn Care (Tennessee medicaid) is cutting reimbursement rates to providers by 4% and on top of that is recommending an additional $18000000 in cuts for mental health services. Again thousands and thousands of people. And in addition to all that, depending on whose numbers you believe, as many as 80000 Tennesseans with mental health diagnoses lack access to insurance to pay for any services.
It is “mental health season” and the annual battle to save the quality of lives for thousands of Tennesseans is going strong.
To my knowledge there is not one single person in the face of all this has raised a voice for Murphy. Not one. Tennessee, after a lot of TAC advocacy, started a pilot AOT program 2 years ago. In the last 2 years it has served 1 person. In the budget hearings the commissioner of mental health basically dismissed it as irrelevant and suggested its funding might better go to a program that served actual people. The population in state psychiatric hospitals is going down. In the last year as many people were admitted to community based, voluntary crisis stabilization units as state psychiatric hospitals. They closed one state hospital 3 years ago and put the money back in community programming. There was no spike in either jail or homeless population. When they looked at the “chronic” patients that had been there for years they found out for over 90% they were simply poor and had no where to live. They found them a place to live.
Against all this you have the Murphy/TAC ideology. It talks about the “worried well” and how the illegitimate or trivial needs of many are taking services away from the few who really need it. It talks about AOT as a key to a new and better system and ignores the fact that for virtually every state AOT has already proven an irrelevancy. In a state like New York which does use it it serves 1/3 of 1%. Not my measure of a cornerstone. It preaches psychiatric hospitalization to states that have found it far too little bang for far too many bucks. It seeks to have us all board a ship that sailed long ago. It views the protection of rights as an assault against doctor privilege and ignores the damage done to thousands by psychiatric medications blindly and wildly used. And it dismisses the stories of thousands and thousands about the reality of recovery with blithe remarks about how they “were never that bad to begin with.”
I have talked with Tennessee representatives and will continue to do so. I tell them this bill is irrelevant to the reality of the mental health system in Tennessee. It is, in fact, an abandonment of Tennesseans that struggle every day with mental health issues in their lives. And the implicit message to the “worried well” that they simply need to “man-up and stop whining” so that those people who need help can finally get it is the basest insult to the lives, the souls, and the integrity of the people that elected them. I tell them it is a financial boondoggle in the hardest of times that will rob people desperately seeking help of the help they need. I tell them vote no….no….no.
Pass the word. Despite his pretensions to the contrary the “king has no new clothes.” The issue is very much in question. Vote no. Vote no. Vote no.