Tag Archives: Michael Hopcroft

Denying life will only make you miserable

By Michael Hopcroft, Contributing Writer

Do you suffer from mental illness?”

“No, Doctor. I enjoy every minute of it!”

Of course, nobody really enjoys being mentally ill. But this very old joke illustrates something vital about coping with any disability: having a sense of humor about it, and about life in general, is vital if you are going to survive it.

Humor can be many things to a person with mental illness. Humor can be a refuge from self-doubt. It can be a safe way to interact with other people, especially friends. It can be reinforcement at times when the illness appears ready to overwhelm you. Humor makes life more livable. Continue reading

Chasse case languishes alongside squandered progress

mhaplogo-1From the Sept. 4 edition of Street Roots.

As we approach the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse, there are several crucial questions still floating in legal and political limbo.

None is more vital than a long-overdue Portland Police Bureau internal investigative report on what happened to James Chasse.

We know some things, such as what happened to James: an innocent man, he was chased and attacked by three police officers who gave him a savage beating in front of dozens of witnesses. The officers then failed to inform the ambulance service of the beating, and who then, instead of taking him to a hospital, took the mortally wounded James on a meandering tour of town before eventually arriving at the downtown jail.

James died having suffered 16 broken ribs, a punctured lung, massive internal bleeding and 46 abrasions or contusions on his body, including six to the head and 19 strikes to the torso. Hogtied, in shrieking pain, he died a mere hour after his first contact with an officer. Continue reading

Mental Health Association of Portland new column in Street Roots: Compassion, good guidance, the bedrock of new center

mhaplogo-1From the August 7 edition of Street Roots.

On July 2 the Multnomah County Commission voted to fund and build a new facility to help persons who are acutely mentally ill.

In 2001, during a generational redesign of Multnomah County’s mental health system, a variety of providers, former patients, referring agencies, community members, and independent clinicians decided to close a similar facility — the Crisis Triage Center, or CTC.

The CTC was a 24-hour psychiatric clinic attached to Providence Hospital, which planned to provide immediate treatment for anyone. It specialized in being a third choice for police, the first two being doing nothing or making an arrest. The CTC started unpredictably and badly with the tragic death of Emily Comeaux, a person with needs beyond the comprehension of the CTC staff.

Prospective patients, sick and in crisis, who were coached to seek services at the CTC regularly waited hours before seeing a clinician. Sick children were kept in the same waiting room as adult patients. The cost of care was high and rising. Some patients and clinicians chronically overused the CTC, clogging the service for others.  Patients were put on psychiatric holds unnecessarily, given the wrong medicine, or complained their concerns were dismissed.

After some public debate and critical events, such as the death of Jose Mejia Poot, Providence Hospital and Multnomah County, both pointing fingers at each other, quit the contract and closed the CTC.

A re-design was proposed. The newly formed Cascadia would operate five walk in clinics which would be open 24 hours, staffed with able-bodied clinicians, and located in all five quadrants of the city. Anyone could walk in and get help in a few minutes. The costs would be lower because the clinics were uncoupled from a hospital.

The clinics opened with much media fanfare, but within a few weeks, bureaucrats were thinking of how to save money. If services could be reduced, costs could be cut. Cascadia closed one clinic after another, leaving eventually only one that was not open 24 hours, and services were only available to certain people.

The closure of the CTC added a hard-to-measure burden on a variety of services and individuals which had no coordinated way of comparing experience and recognizing an additional set of responsibilities. We’d estimate the cost of not having this service is in the tens of millions of dollars per year.

So we applaud that the county leadership recognizes this new facility is an important component of the continuum of county services. Continue reading