The popular press is filled with ideas and criticism about what best to do with those afflicted with mental illness. The resources available to law enforcement are practically nothing in the average community. I have answered calls in west central Massachusetts where a citizen asked for referrals for counseling for a family member who was addicted to something or other. Too often I had nothing to offer. Generally speaking unless someone has money to pay for psychiatric services they are left to languish on the waiting lists of community mental health centers. In emergencies many show up or a taken by ambulance to the emergency mental health center nearest their place of residence. This usually ends up costing them thousands of dollars and hours of their time only to be told they must follow-up with a primary care physician. The entire process can be demeaning and inhumane.
In a prior post I have advocated for the use of 12-step recovery programs to help those with substance abuse and dependence. These are not psychotherapy and are often leaderless meetings. There are have daily meetings in every city and town. 12-step programs teach the understanding addiction and loss of control from addition, coping by taking one moment at a time in order to remain substance free and belief in a higher power. In many cases new members of AA or NA – or any compulsive behavior recovery group – may have a sponsor who comes forth and provide 24/hour support. I encourage family members to attend meetings with their loved one in show of support. Sobriety can begin tonight at the 7 PM meeting in Watertown, Worcester or Anytown, USA.
The interaction of substance abuse and mental illness is complex. Persons with drug and alcohol addiction must be expected to become sober with the help of substance abuse treatment and family support. The risk of violence and suicide declines when sobriety can be maintained. Michael Sefton, 2017
“We have to get American police to rethink how they handle encounters with the mentally ill. Training has to change” according to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent research organization devoted to improving policing. People carrying a dual diagnosis are at greatest risk for self-destruction – including intimate partner violence and suicide by cop.
Sefton, M (2017) Blog post: https://msefton.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/police-as-therapist-the-inherent-risk-of-unconditional-positive-regard/ Taken 17 November 2017