Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Proud To Be A Psychiatrist

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 23, 2013

“Problems at Salinas Valley Psychiatric Program came to light in January, when nine psychiatrists wrote a letter to the facility’s then-executive director — copied to Gaither’s office — saying that high patient loads were “not safe or appropriate.” Gaither denied the allegations but overhauled the program’s leadership. Atascadero State Hospital psychiatrists also wrote a letter to that facility’s executive director this spring, citing shortages among their ranks.”

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-state-hospitals-20130723,0,2759486.story

Today’s LA Times warmed my heart. So much of the time, on this blog, I complain that psychiatrists are not doing enough to protest the poor treatment of the mentally ill. So, today when I read about psychiatrists protesting about patient care, I was relieved and proud. The psychiatrists are speaking out, leaving me to wonder why Steve Lopez, in his series of articles on the mentally ill, never mentions psychiatrists. I also learned from this article that the Department of Mental Health (DMH) has become the Department of State Hospitals, curiously leaving out the word “mental” as these “State Hospitals” are mental hospitals. Hmmm….So, I learned the following….

Welcome to the New Department of State Hospitals!

On December 7, 2011, the California Department of Mental Health announced the blueprint to establish the new Department of State Hospitals and reforms to the Department of Mental Health structure designed to improve the mental hospital system in California. Interesting.

There is still the LA County Department of Mental Health, but the State Department of Mental Health has reorganized.

State mental health services are now part of DHCS (Department of Health Care Services) and not it’s own department. I knew this change was coming, but I did not know the specifics, until this article reminded me to check it out! My impression is that this change is detrimental to mental health care, as mental health used to have it’s own budget and now it is part of the bigger health care budget. All of this will be important if the Affordable Care Act rolls out in January, 2014.

With all of that, I repeat. Today, I am basking in the glow of my colleagues standing up for patient care.

5 Responses to “Proud To Be A Psychiatrist”

  1. Jon said

    The good news is that you do have colleagues that are standing up for patient care. The bad news is that State Department of Mental Health has reorganized. So that state mental health services are now part of DHCS Department of Health Care Services. The ironic news is that the blueprint for establishing the new “Department of State Hospitals” was announced on the seventieth anniversary of something that occurred on December 7, 2041.

  2. Shelly said

    I return to what I had previously asked in a previous blog: I realize that all psychiatrists intrinsically care about the human condition no matter what the crime or status of the individual in society. However (except for you!), how many of your colleagues will be willing to treat the mentally ill in those state hospitals or prisons, since these patients are not of high status or money makers? I think–very few. Everyone else will say, “Yay, yay! Patient rights, etc… But when it’s time for the get down, get dirty….someone else will do it.” I mean, let some other sucker treat the homeless, the criminal, the mentally ill put away in the state hospitals. Thoughts?

    • Yes, I have many thoughts. I think it is interesting how psychiatrists with the same basic training branch off into so many different practice styles. Some, do work in “State Hospitals” whereas others choose private practice. The reasons, as you can imagine, are quite variable. Status and money are part of the equation, but so is temperament and need for consistency versus a sense of being more independent. I do not think there is a good versus bad distinction here, although I am interested in how the psychiatric resident makes this choice, because, as you can imagine, most of the time, a large measure of this decision is unconscious, only to be unpeeled much later in life. Thanks.

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