Visiting Editors: Touching on mentally ill, chronic pain and water

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/28/2014 9:21 AM

Help mentally ill, don’t dispose of them

It’s common to demonize both the mentally ill and their families. Media coverage convenes the court of public opinion on each tragedy. The public always asks, “How could their parents not have known their child was capable of such atrocities?”

There’s a compelling reason. Unless someone is declared incompetent by a judge, medical records are kept stringently private. If the patient suffers from a mental disorder, parents are often unaware that their adult son or daughter is sick. Many family members are left reeling when these horror shows occur.

Our public health care system has little capacity to deal with mental patients. Newer drugs (without crippling side effects) are not covered by most insurance and, since doctors have enormous caseloads, it’s easy to see how individuals fall through the cracks, condemned to a life on the fringes. It’s easy to turn a blind eye on our mentally ill brethren, averting our eyes to avoid seeing them.

There is a glimmer of hope. San Francisco has embraced “Laura’s Law” and plans to offer outpatient treatment clinics. On a federal level, HR 3717 would loosen privacy laws and free up federal money for treatment.

This is a personal passion quest. I have struggled with bipolar disorder my entire adult life. I have private medical coverage and people who have refused to give up on me. Unfortunately, our streets are littered with the walking wounded who do not have these advantages.

People are not disposable. We must find workable solutions that provide humane treatment for our mentally ill citizens.

Managing the chronic pain crisis

Helping people manage chronic pain is a complex issue that can affect the entire community since overuse and misuse of these powerful drugs is reaching epidemic levels. Since pain is subjective, it can be manipulated to look much worse than it is. That can lead to overtreatment or being treated with the wrong medications, which can make the patient dependent on them or even addicted to them. It can also be undertreated due to fear of addiction.

Since, there is no objective test to diagnose pain, it is hard for doctors to quantify pain objectively. The better and newer pain medications are more costly. Over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, etc., can be abused and lead to liver and kidney failure, hypertension and bleeding ulcers. Prescribing opioid medications – which can be easily tampered with and abused – remains a great concern. Easy access to narcotic medications can lead to drug abuse, overdose and sometimes even death. Their abuse is rising in younger populations.

The Drug Enforcement Agency has a website, Checking Cures, which can help in finding out if the person asking for pain medication is doctor shopping for prescriptions.

All of us need to understand the dangers these medications represent. At first sign of abuse, we must talk to the physicians and pharmacies involved. They must be vigilant in using Checking Cures.

Better medications should be more easily available and affordable for those actually in pain. Also, an objective test to assess a patient’s level of pain needs to be developed.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad (water) World

In the movie “ It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” Smiler Grogan tells everyone there is treasure buried beneath a big W! “You’ll be set for life, I’m telling yah.”

Whether this treasure flows down the mountains or needs to be pumped from the ground, most of us know that without it there would be fewer options for life. Every drop of water that settles above ground belongs to some entity through a Byzantine collection of water rights, contracts and my hydrologist attorneys can beat up on yours.

If you don’t think that the water crisis is affecting you, think again. In our third year of drought the outlook doesn’t look good. Scores of farmers are already having their water allotments reduced or turned off. Fields of once lush vegetation are now fallowed with drier forecasts predicted.

How are some farmers and municipals keeping up with demand? They pump the precious big W out of the ground just to keep pace. California in one of the few states that has no regulations concerning groundwater. Who’s on first?

When one drives from Sonora – the land of burned lawns and 50 percent requested water reduction (25 percent mandatory) – to Oakdale, they are greeted by newly planted nut trees by the thousands mostly watered through wells.

As the subterranean water basins subside every dry year, when will we reach the tipping point? If you think people are mad now, wait till next year.

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