NIXA, Mo.– – It’s one of the most common learning disabilities in the world but good luck getting it diagnosed and treated. The numbers are as high as 1 in 5– that many kids are thought to have dyslexia.
Experts say ignoring those numbers can be detrimental because people with dyslexia learn differently, so differently that if we try to teach them in a traditional classroom they’re often labeled “dumb” or “illiterate,” and finally one Ozarks public school is doing something about it.
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WASHINGTON — Hospitals across Missouri have dramatically cut their psychiatric beds over the past two decades, reducing capacity to provide acute inpatient care for the mentally ill by 40 percent since 1990.
Now, mental health advocates fear that trend will accelerate — widening a major coverage gap at a time when there is new focus on mental health care — if Republicans in the state legislature kill Gov. Jay Nixon’s push to expand Medicaid.
Keith Schafer, the director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, said hospitals will have to make dramatic cuts if the state rejects Medicaid expansion, and psychiatric units will be among the first things to come under the knife.
“We could lose a significant number of the beds left,” he said.
Todd Schaible, president and CEO of Springfield’s Burrell Behavioral Health, called the issue a “sleeping giant” in the politically charged debate over expanding Medicaid.
Angela Acree didn’t have any experience with the mental health system until the night her younger brother had a psychotic episode and was hospitalized.
Acree quickly learned that psychiatric beds can be far away, family members may not always know where their relatives are hospitalized and the mentally ill can be discharged before their relatives think they’re ready.
“People always wonder why there are so many homeless people,” said Acree, an attorney. “It was fortunate that my brother was pretty compliant. Others are not so fortunate. They just walk off and end up living in a storm grate. It’s pretty horrible.”
Acree’s younger brother, Greg, 52, who suffers from schizophrenia, was hospitalized after a psychotic episode in January 2012. He was initially taken to Cox South and then to a facility in Nevada before being sent to a residential care facility in Nixa. He is currently living in an apartment run by Burrell Behavioral Health.
When a frightened family called Burrell Behavioral Health about their adolescent son who had expressed homicidal thoughts, a treatment team stepped in to work with the boy and the family.
This is not an uncommon scenario for Burrell and other mental health agencies. The boy had been hospitalized several times but was discharged after a few days only to regress. He needed intensive management to ensure that he took his medication and got help to control his emotions and behaviors.
Without that, the young boy could have become a headline, like Adam Lanza and others with unchecked mental illnesses.
With proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate, mental health services at community clinics such as Burrell Behavioral Health would get the funding needed to provide 24-hour psychiatric care and integrated medical and mental health services for many more people like Lanza and the young boy at Burrell.
Therapist Sarah Johnson keeps candy in her office. It’s meant to counter the painful experience for children who visit.
Rape. Neglect. Physical abuse.
A counselor for teens who have abused drugs or alcohol, Sarah sometimes tears up when she listens to what the kids say, but she never cries in front of them. She doesn’t want the focus to be on herself.
The children are usually 12 to 17 years old. Their addictions are serious enough to have brought them here, but many of the teens haven’t grasped just how serious. Maybe they haven’t done jail time — yet.
Often their families don’t know the full extent of their drug use, which sometimes starts as early as age 5.
A lot of the children like sour candy. There’s also usually a mixture of chocolate and hard candy. She doesn’t place any limits on the sweets.
“They all get candy here,” Sarah said. “I tell them when you’re in my office you get as much as you want.”
Residents at the Regency Mobile Home Park, which will close in the spring, were given the chance last night to reach out for guidance from local social service organizations as they prepare to leave the park.
Representatives from city government, the Columbia Housing Authority, Burrell Behavioral Health and Mid-Missouri Legal Services were at the trailer park, 2701 E. Nifong Blvd., to advise residents on services that might help ease the burden of leaving the park and finding a new home.
The Regency property was rezoned last month to allow for the construction of a student apartment complex. After a public outcry over the amount of notice Regency residents were given that the park was closing, Aspen Heights, a Texas-based student housing company that is purchasing the site, offered financial incentives to residents and extended the closure of the park from Feb. 29 to April 30, or May 31 for families with school-age children.