See You In Butner
How long do we have to wait for Governor-elect Bev Perdue to tell us who will make up her cabinet? I think we need to know – now, today – who the new Secretary of Health and Human Services will be. The mental health crisis could get worse (theoretically anyway, it’s hard to see how), and we need to know who’s going to turn it around. I’m not faulting Dempsey Benton, not necessarily, but he’s moving on, so it’s time for Bev to tell us who’s coming in. Where are the plans to get a handle on this mess?
Capping weeks of bad news about the state mental (un)health services, the past two days have brought more cringe-inducing information. Our new $138 million state hospital at Butner is not safe for patients according to a review, meaning it’s federal funding could be cut. I’m sorry, do you feel like you’ve heard that before? You have:
In little more than a year, all four of North Carolina’s remaining state-run mental hospitals have now either lost or been threatened with losing accreditation because of patient deaths or incidents of abuse and neglect.
A fifth hospital, closed last summer, had also been cited after employees beat a female patient while she was strapped down.”
For God’s sake, do we have completely incompetent people running these facilities? I mean, I guess I could see how you’d have a hard time avoiding some violations, but it’s like no one is learning from their mistakes. Or maybe it’s the legislature, which won’t fund mental health properly, that won’t learn from the past. Either way, this is really wrong. How wrong, you ask? Wrong enough that we’re all used to waking up to news like this:
A state mental hospital worker recently suspended for neglecting a patient who later died has been charged with sexual abuse on the job.”
Don’t worry, it gets better. “He has a criminal record that predates his employment” at the hospital, which has been the past eleven years. Now you’re thinking, but how can this be? “DHHS conducts criminal background checks on hires for hospital jobs, though there is no policy barring hiring someone who has been convicted of a crime.” That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? If they’re not doing them to weed out criminals, are they doing the background checks to ensure they’re hiring criminals? One never knows, do one?
Perhaps it is we the people of North Carolina who can’t learn from the mistakes of the past. Why aren’t we out in the streets decrying the terrible abuses that are obviously occurring everyday in this state? Would that help? (Hold that thought, we don’t know where the current governor is and the next one doesn’t seem to think it needs her attention.) If we’re to be judged by how we treat the weakest among us, we’re going to hell. I’m guessing it will look a lot like one of our mental hospitals.