Roy Exum: Approve Erlanger’s Needs

Monday, August 22, 2016 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
There will be a hearing this week that will determine if the state of Tennessee should issue what is called a “Certificate of Need” to Erlanger Hospital for psychiatric purposes. It proposes to build a desperately-needed Behavioral Health Center on Holtzclaw Avenue not far from the main campus on East Third Street.

On Friday it was announced that Parkridge Valley Hospital officials and those at our Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services (CADAS) will oppose the facility. That stance alone is enough to get officials from either of the greedy and monopolistic hospitals committed to an insane asylum. I know, we don’t have asylums any more but insanity is still alive and well.

The state recognizes Erlanger’s need. It has been approved by the City Council. I’m told there are easily 88 patients in-house at Erlanger right now only because we have nowhere else to place the mentally needy except the Hamilton County Jail. How in heaven’s name can there be a speck of opposition that isn’t tied to some other hospital’s bottom line! This is absurd.

In our region right now – including Cleveland, Warren County and Winchester -- there are 208 psychiatric beds available (that includes 150 at Moccasin Bend). In Georgia, between here and Atlanta, there are seven beds, all in Dalton. Alabama has none between here and Birmingham, only 18 geropsychiatric (Alzheimer’s) beds in Fort Payne. There are an additional 108 beds for children and adolescents at Parkridge Valley. Therefore, I’ll bet you “my grip on the rope” I could fill every bed with a deserving patient from our great dumping ground for the mentally ill – the county jail.

We should quit worrying about guns and make mental health the target for our daily horrors. The state of Tennessee, as well as every other state that touches ours, has been near-criminal in shirking its duty towards our mentally deficient. With the proper care and the right medications, most of these people can return to almost-normal lives, yet if we have no method of treatment, there is no way for them to cope.

So today I am going to share an obituary, written by a father to announce his daughter’s death in Scranton, Pa, last week. This precious girl, an undergrad at Penn State with an MBA from Ohio State, simply couldn’t cope and, as a result, will be buried on the very day you read this. I cannot fathom a more meaningful piece of conclusive evidence that the father’s words share on our desperate “need” for a new $25-million, 88-bed, professionally-staffed facility in Chattanooga:

* * *

OBITUARY -- Kathleen Marie Shoener

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Kathleen "Katie" Marie Shoener, 29, fought bipolar disorder since 2005, but she finally lost the battle on Wednesday to suicide in Lewis Center, Ohio. Katie was born in Scranton and is the daughter of Deacon Edward R. and Ruth Shoener of Scranton. She was a graduate of Scranton High School, received her Bachelor of Science in business from Penn State University and recently her MBA from Ohio State University.

She also leaves behind three brothers, Robert, San Diego; William and wife, Sarah, Scranton; Edward M., Old Forge; three nieces, Harper and Brylee, of San Diego; Grace, Scranton; and two nephews, Ben and Jacob, of Scranton.

So often people who have a mental illness are known as their illness. People say that "she is bipolar" or "he is schizophrenic." Over the coming days as you talk to people about this, please do not use that phrase. People who have cancer are not cancer, those with diabetes are not diabetes. Katie was not bipolar - she had an illness called bipolar disorder - Katie herself was a beautiful child of God.

The way we talk about people and their illnesses affects the people themselves and how we treat the illness. In the case of mental illness there is so much fear, ignorance and hurtful attitudes that the people who suffer from mental illness needlessly suffer further. Our society does not provide the resources that are needed to adequately understand and treat mental illness.

In Katie's case, she had the best medical care available, she always took the cocktail of medicines that she was prescribed and she did her best to be healthy and manage this illness - and yet - that was not enough.

Someday a cure will be found, but until then, we need to support and be compassionate to those with mental illness, every bit as much as we support those who suffer from cancer, heart disease or any other illness. Please know that Katie was a sweet, wonderful person that loved life, the people around her - and Jesus Christ.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday in St. Peter's Cathedral at 10 a.m.

* * *

An obituary like this should never have to appear anywhere. And no father should ever have to write it. With heart-felt condolences to Katie Shoener’s family, please approve Erlanger Hospital’s “Certificate of Need” on Wednesday.

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