Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 38

I Reimagine My Patient Still Being Alive

The new crisis hotline aims to enhance and complement, not replace, police with 24/7 local mental health crisis call centers, mobile crisis teaming, and crisis stabilization options.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Today begins a week designated as REIMAGINE: A Week to Reimagine Our National Response to People in Crisis. During the week, The American Psychiatric Association and various coalition organizations will learn how to prepare for the new 988 crisis hotline, which is to be implemented nationally come July 19, 2022.

Every year, millions of such calls are made to 911 and local crisis hotlines but, generally, law enforcement is the only response available. Goodness knows, with the George Floyd police killing most prominent, there have been problems with equity and inclusion, among other challenges in crisis responsiveness. The goal is to enhance and complement, not replace, police with 24/7 local mental health crisis call centers, mobile crisis teaming, and crisis stabilization options.

If that could have been in place 40 years ago, my patient, Eddie Lee Johnson, could still be alive. Whenever I hear of a tragedy involving the police and mental illness, I am triggered to a trauma in my past work. Mr Johnson was a 22-year-old Black male diagnosed with schizophrenia, and one of my favorite patients. He often gesticulated wildly, even in our clinic, but nothing bad ever happened and he could easily be calmed down with reassurance of safety. One time he did that near a police station and held a knife, shouting obscenities. A few officers then fired 9 gunshots, killing him. The story, titled “Mental Patient Killed in Houston After Confronting Group of Police,” made the December 15, 1981 issue of The New York Times.1 If it happened after July 19, 2022, presumably the police could call 988 and connect to a clinic like mine for input and help.

Let’s reimagine a better future.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

Reference

1. Mental patient killed in Houston after confronting group of police. The New York Times. December 15, 1981. Accessed November 15, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/15/us/mental-patient-killed-in-houston-after-confronting-group-of-police.html