The increase in involuntary mental-health detentions was not a surprise since I have been a health professional for 30 years. The problem has been created by this state’s long-term neglect of funding mental-health services.
When I started, a caseload size for a case manager working with people with severe mental illness in the community was 25-30. Case managers got to know their clients, helped with paperwork, medications and appointments, and built relationships. Today, the average case load is about 100 people. There’s no time to go see them, to check on them. There is only time to try to manage the latest crisis. And case managers at community agencies are underpaid, creating turnover. Now I work at a jail. When I call case managers, I hear, “I have never met him.” Clients say, “My old case manager left. I don’t know my new one.”
Solving the problem of the revolving door of people with serious mental illnesses going in and out of hospitals and jails means funding community mental-health agencies to have caseload sizes of 30 and pay case managers a wage that will keep them doing this work. It takes compassion, patience and money.
Nancy Whitney, Renton