It’s a difficult question. Yes, the medicaid program requires there to be mental health programs in place, especially for kids, so that calling 911 isn’t the only option. But how can you develop that kind of program when this is also true?
A shortage of doctors in the state has meant long wait times that allow mental health episodes to escalate to crisis situations, when a child is likely to hurt themselves or others, according to advocates for the mentally ill. Most of Louisiana’s parishes have no psychologists or psychiatrists, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the 2015 data, the most recent available, 21 of the state’s 64 parishes also lacked a practicing pediatrician.
I live in Louisiana. I live in a larger city, Baton Rouge, where there are services, albeit there may also be long wait times. For much of the rest of the state, however, the services simply aren’t there. If they can even get anyone to refer them, it’s usually to see someone on one of the larger cities, which may be hours away, if you can even get in.
So with a lawsuit like this, if nothing else, it can maybe get people to start thinking about ways to address these problems. When you live in a parish, or county in other states, that doesn’t even have a pediatrician, how can we make sure you still have available healthcare. How can we make sure kids in crisis have access to something other than jail for mental health treatment?
There are no easy answers. But there is an obvious problem that continues to create more and more problems across society as it is ieft untreated. We should maybe get serious about finding an answer.