Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Is There a Doctor in the House?

The Center for Disease Control just released new statistics concerning suicide rates in the United States.  Between 1999 and 2014, the suicide rate increased by 24%.  Accelerating in the latter years from a 1% rise per year to a 2% rise per year.  In 1999, 10.5 deaths for every 100,000 residents were due to suicide.  By 2014 that number had risen to 13 per 100,000.  In the our county the rate far exceeds the national average: 20.4 suicides for every 100,000 residents. 

The local daily paper, the News Press, printed an article earlier this year that strongly suggests the high rate of suicides in our county is due to a variety of factors, not least of which is the paucity of mental health providers.  Florida is 49th our if 50 states in mental health funding.  The major health provider in Lee County is the Lee Memorial health System.  It is a public system, and it operates four hospitals, and numerous other facilities.  There is not one full-time psychiatrist in any of those four hospital's emergency rooms.  Not one.  (New-Press, 1-24-16, 35A)

I am a fan of the relatively new medical dram called Chicago Med .  It chronicles life in a big city hospital, especially the comings and goings in its ER.  One of the key characters is a psychiatrist, Dr. Charles (I'm sure he has a first name, but I don't remember hearing it!)  I'm sure the character is part of each show because it adds another dimension to the usual blood and guts of such dramas.  But time and again, the rather shlumpy looking shrink (played by a brilliant Oliver Platt) offers an insight that clarifies things for patients, doctors and nurses alike.  Sometimes a life-saving insight.

I know Hollywood has a lot more money to throw around than Lee memorial Health System (or any other hospital system) but if Chicago Med can afford a psychiatrist, why can't our hospitals here?  I don't know the answer, but if we are to begin to address the suicide crisis, it could make a real difference.  It is only one part of the solution.  Our mental health system needs major funding, and a major overhaul.  But it would be a start.

During the first episode of Chicago Med, the hospital administrator, Sharon Goodwin (played by one of my favorite actresses, S. Epatha Merkerson) says of the ER staff as someone goes through the door, "There are good people, strong people on the other side."  And so it is in our Lee County ERs.  There are good, strong people working in our ERs. One of them, though, per shift, per ER, should be a psychiatrist.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mississippi's Got It Wrong

I made sure I looked it up and read it for myself.  Mississippi's Protecting Freedom of Conscience Government Discrimination Act, that is.  You've no doubt heard about it on the news.  Such things often get oversimplified as they are reported out to the nation, so I wanted to be sure I understood its stated intent.  And I think I do.  In a nutshell, if one's "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" (that's language used in the bill itself) leads one to being opposed to same-sex marriage, and a variety of other things related to sexual orientation, the State of Mississippi cannot prosecute you for being discriminatory.

Some of the bill addresses the rights of religious organizations like churches, synagogues, mosques and so on.  Some of it addresses the rights of individuals who do things like baking cakes, arranging flowers or provide banquet halls.  And some of it allows for state employees to be exempt from being involved in same-sex marriage licensing, officiating, etc.  But it goes beyond ceremonies and licenses.  Because it also allows for discrimination in hiring, adoption, housing.  If you think gays and lesbians and those who marry are headed straight for hell, and you'll be right behind them if you allow them to live in a house you own, then you are protected in your right to not allow them to rent your property.  If you think all people are supposed to be heterosexual, and you foster a child who isn't, and you want to get them some therapy to treat their "perversion"--you are protected.  And the list goes on.  All in the name of protecting religious freedom.

Well, I'm sorry.  It just doesn't work for me.  It smacks of the bad old days when folks "sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions" included a belief God wanted the races separated, because, after all, black folks were inferior to white ones.  Or an earlier time, when such beliefs and convictions lead to a defense of slavery as being the will of God. 

Read the bill for yourself.  It is Mississippi House Bill 1523.  See what you think.  You can find it by clicking on this link.

Whatever you think, my sincerely held religious belief and moral conviction and my conviction as a citizen of these United States is this:  it's a step backward.  Some of it is unnecessary (religious officials already have many of the protections it offers), some of it misunderstands what it means to be a public servant, and some of it is just plain wrong.

At the state borders the signs read, Welcome to Mississippi, It's Like Coming Home.  Maybe.  For some folks.  But for others . . . .

Monday, April 4, 2016

Red Sox and Resurrection

I thought spring training was going to get away from me this year.  Baseball, that is.  In Lee County we have two major league teams, the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox, that hold their spring training camps here.  And I always get a chance to see my beloved Red Sox play at least once.  But this year proved a bit busier than usual in March, and I hadn't gotten to either park to see a game.  But, then, during the last week of play, a parishioner invited me to the last game of the spring season.  So, thanks to Phil, on March 31, just in the nick of time, I got to see Boston play the Twins.

They lost--and ended the spring training season well below  500.  For non-baseball fans, that means they lost more games than  the won.  But David Ortiz, the designated hitter for the Red Sox who is retiring this year, hit a home run.  And that redeemed the whole experience.  One home run from one very special player made the difference.  It turned what could have been a bit of a downer into a real joy!  I got to see David Ortiz hit his last home run in spring training!

As I pondered this bit of good fortune I realized life often works that day.  Life in general can be going to hell in a handbasket, as they say, when one person, one kind deed, can turn it all around,  And what had been a bad day can be made into a good one. 

Come to think of it, that's a good illustration for this Easter season, isn't it?  The disciples were having a very, very bad week, weren't they?  Betrayal, desertion, the death of their leader, the threat of Rome--it was all well below 500.  But then came the resurrection, and life got turned around.  And what had been a bad, bad week, got transformed into a whole new life for those disciples!