Can we not learn from history? I was saddened that it seemed like part two of Charlotte Sun Roundtable on Mental Illness was focusing mostly on G. Pierce Wood’s Memorial Hospital/Asylum. To me, as a mental health advocate, it felt like a wrong turn towards, a backwards idea being presented almost as a solution. As if bringing back state run hospitals and locking us away, people living with a mental health diagnosis, was going to be the solution and way of handling the demand on the mental health system.
I guess when you think about it, it worked in the past right?…all those mental health asylums hiding insane lunatics away from public eye, locking us behind cellar doors – keeping us out of sight and out of mind. Sure that worked in the past, right? That’s kind of what I was feeling the article was going to suggest. Although in one aspect it is, since it’s talking about the jails and mental health issues not being met.
But I digress; let me first get back to G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital. If you are not from Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda Florida or did not need or started receiving/seeking services for mental health treatment after February 2002, you enter the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital era. As a Mental Health Advocate, YOU can count yourself lucky to have Charlotte Behavioral Health Care!
GPW was the premier state mental health treatment facility in the area and while the largest in the state opening its doors in 1947 (History note: GPW opened its doors 1 year after Dr. Walter Freeman developed the Transorbital Lobotomy, using a device similar to an ice-pick for outpatient “office procedure”) and closed under scrutiny 12 years ago on February 28, 2002.
In the end GPW riddled with controversy, allegations of financial corruption, patient abuse, lack of funding all leading/contributing to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling with federal and state legislation, G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital — along with many other large state mental/ Asylum hospitals around the country were to be closed.
When I talked to a former DCF employee source who followed the Federal lawsuit closely and observed the Federal Court Testimony in Tampa his take on the article:
The real issue is that the case was settled for less funding that was needed in the community for the future. The court monitors wanted $3 to $1 spent to operate the hospital. The hospital would close, but the “money would follow the person” in the community, plus funds for others in need. Yes Florida is 49 out of 50 in per capital funding for mental health. The GP Wood budget was approximately $33 – 36 Million at the time. Therefore, additional funding was needed for diversion programs (from jails) and permanent supportive housing and employment…Funding has not kept up with demand. – anonymous former DCF employee source
Also see Jay Glynns article Jails Pay The Price For State’s Poor Mental Health Policy OUR VIEW: Mental health care in Florida is a disgrace.
Florida has closed all but three of its state mental hospitals in the past decade — a knee-jerk decision made after a costly lawsuit involving a patient at the now-shuttered G. Pierce Wood mental health facility in DeSoto County. The state, citing budget concerns among other excuses, planned to treat those needing mental health care with certified teams doing outpatient care in each community. It hasn’t worked. Until this year, when funding remained stable, the state has cut money invested in mental health care in every budget since the move to eliminate mental hospitals began. Florida ranks a shameful 49th in mental health care*spending per capita in the United States. The result has been a nightmare for local law enforcement and a burden on county jails.
*In my next post I will Google at G Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital and see what I can learn.