Choose life… Insure Tennessee
Choose life. When in doubt, when you are not sure... When there is a question choose life.
The question of Insure Tennessee is a question of whether or not we will choose life. It is not a question of a better way to choose life. It is not a question of not this but that. As more and more stories pour in it is obvious. For thousands of Tennessean it is increasingly each day a question of life or death... a question of life or needless and preventable suffering... a future of hope or one bound by despair. It is not about finding an answer. It is about the common sense and political will to grab the one (the only one) in front of us and stop the unnecessary misery that defines the lives of so many vulnerable Tennesseans.
Chattanooga voted last night to choose life. Their city council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution supporting Insure Tennessee. They joined a growing movement of cities and towns saying they support their neighbors, their friends, their families. No one should have to unnecessarily suffer or suffer as a direct result of governmental policy. Insure Tennessee.
The movement is growing. Thanks to the leadership of people like Pam Weston in East Tennessee and Meryl and Randall Rice in West Tennessee and the stories and words of more and more Tennesseans the movement is growing. It is the growing crescendo of more and more ordinary Tennesseans saying "CHOOSE LIFE!!!!!"
Imagine a flood, a hurricane in Tennessee. The waters are rising.. People are dying.... Many are on top of their houses waiting for a miracle.. a boat... a something... someone who cares.... hope. The government has boats. But they decide to wait. "Let's make sure this is a good idea..."
The waters still rise. For some it is too late. For others it will soon be too late. Action matters. The hurricane is here for thousands of Tennesseans. And they are on top of their houses waiting.
Join the movement to choose life. Talk to your local government. Ask them to join Chattanooga and the other towns and counties that have acted.
Today. Today please choose life.
Larry Drain ~
Tragic California Case Exposes Failings in Our Mental Health Care System
CareforYouMind Feb 10,'15
In April 2012, Fred Paroutaud, a California man with no history of mental illness, experienced a psychotic episode. Mr. Paroutaud was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Just 72 hours after he was admitted, and despite the fact that he was still experiencing hallucinations, he was discharged and referred to outpatient group therapy. Because his condition remained unstable he requested alternate therapy and one-on-one sessions with a psychiatrist. He was denied both by his health plan and his condition deteriorated.
Concerned by his worsening depression, his wife appealed to the health plan again and again. She pleaded that her husband required more supervised and personalized treatment. While waiting for an appointment with his psychiatrist, and just two months after his first psychosis, he died by suicide.
Mr. Paroutaud’s widow is convinced that if more intensive and timely care had been available, her husband would still be alive. In October 2013, she and two other plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against the health plan claiming they were harmed by its systemic denial of timely access to mental health services.
Why this story sounds familiar
Those two narrow levels of care are appropriate for many people, but not all, and certainly not for all stages of mental illness. The absence of those critical, in-between levels of care is one of the ways that our mental health system falls short and where it fails people like Fred Paroutaud and his family.
When someone is in the midst of a manic episode or considering suicide, hospitalization can provide the opportunity to stabilize the condition. Upon discharge, many patients require medically monitored care in a residential facility or highly personalized care in a medically-monitored outpatient setting. Unfortunately, that level and type of care is almost impossible to find in commercial health plans.
There is another way
This structure, with six levels of care, is the backbone of the mental health system under California’s Medicaid system, and it provides a complete, stepped approach to rehabilitation.
This type of care should not be exclusive to the Medicaid population. One of the 10 essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act is rehabilitation; another is mental health care. This means that rehabilitation for mental health care isan essential benefit, and all Americans in commercial health plans are entitled to more rehabilitation-focused mental health services.
What you can do now
With increased national attention on access to mental health care, now is the time to tell us about the problems you are having in accessing the care you need. We want to know what services you were denied and the barriers you faced, such as unaffordable out-of-pocket costs, transportation issues, or lack of trained providers in your plan’s network, etc. We also need to know what you did or didn’t do in response and how this impacted your or your family member’s recovery. As advocates and advocacy organizations, we are positioned and prepared to knock on the door of government regulators and health plans and point out the disparity in care and demand access to appropriate rehabilitative services.
Many commercial insurers don’t cover rehabilitation services because they don’t believe they have to. And if no one demands otherwise, they are unlikely to ever change. Share your story. Don’t take ‘no’ as the only answer. Let’s realize the parity we deserve.
Rusty has been Executive Director and Legislative Advocate for CCCMHA since 1987. He is co-author of California’s Mental Health Services Act, a tax on personal incomes over $1 million to expand community mental health care. At CCMHA, he has been instrumental in moving forward a variety of critical mental health-related initiatives, including ensuring the implementation of the federal Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program to serve children with severe emotional disturbances. He also serves as Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in California.
Allen Reflects on Thriving in 2014
As DBSA’s 2014: The Year of Thriving comes to a close, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past year, and to think about what’s yet to come.
At the beginning of 2014, we outlined our vision of a future where every adult and child living with a mood disorder has the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive. To some, this was a message of hope; to others, it seemed a goal almost impossible to imagine. I completely understand how some of my peers might find total wellness to be an unattainable goal. Indeed, I too have experienced times in my life when the only reality I could imagine was the intense pain of depression. In fact, I experienced times this very year when thriving seemed so very far away for me personally. But amidst messages about the danger and drain of people with mental health conditions, and my own concurrent thoughts of self-loathing and self-stigma, to know that there was a community that would hope for the return of my best self was a blessing. To hold hope when we cannot carry it ourselves: this has always seemed, to me, the fundamental purpose of peer support. DBSA was founded on a model of peer support, and DBSA will always be about creating opportunities for peer support, and through peer support—the thousands of people meeting in communities across the country—we are creating a world in which all of us may be reminded of our potential, our strength, and our best selves.
For me to return to a place of thriving took a lot of time and work and collaboration. It also took some luck. For I have been very lucky: to have found clinicians that do not put limitations on what my life can be; to have the support of loved ones and colleagues who remind me of who I am, not what condition I live with; to have insurance that gives me access to quality health care that covers both my physical and mental health; and to find inspiration in my work and the amazing people I have the privilege of working with, and for, in my role at DBSA.
Such good fortune—in clinical collaboration, in supportive community, in access to resources, in meaningful work—are what I, and the DBSA Board and staff, want for everyone, not just the very lucky.
So in 2014, we asked our peers, families, clinicians, researchers, politicians, and the public to expect more. We asked our community to promote and seek full wellness—because better is not well, and everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive.
I am proud of the work DBSA accomplished in 2014, and I encourage you to review our 2014: Year of Thriving programs. I believe that we did open minds—and even a few doors—to the possibility of thriving. A few highlights include:
But so much more must be done. So we ask,
“What needs to happen for us to have wellness change from being a possibility for some to a probability for most?”
It will require:
We made some significant strides this past year, but we do not fool ourselves by believing that these first steps have produced monumental change. That will take persistence. That will take courage. That will take time. That will take hope. That will take ALL of us.
It is through thousands, indeed millions, of inspired, imperfect actions that we will slowly transform these small steps into big changes and create a future where wellness is no longer a possibility for only some lucky few, but a probability for all.
Thank you for joining us on this journey,
Ordinary heroes: Drains honored for speaking out for health care equality
y Linda Braden
Larry and Linda Drain are quiet, unassuming people. But when circumstances arose that threatened Linda’s life, they both began speaking out, their voices ringing loudly to bring awareness to — and a solution for — themselves and others who have fallen through the cracks of the health care system in Tennessee. Their income is too high to qualify for TennCare, Tennessee’s public insurance program, and too low to qualify for federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
In acknowledgement of their efforts, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign presented the Drains with the 2014 Heroes for Health Award in August at the John Seigenthaler First Amendment Center, Nashville. The award was given “for your dedicated support to affordable access to high-quality health care for all Tennesseans.”
The event honoring the Heroes was part of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign’s 25th Anniversary celebration. In addition to the Drains, Laura Sell was honored for the major work she did as a volunteer to promote and support enrollment in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, collaborating with the Blount County Public Library.
Larry said, “It was a very eventful night. We got to speak to a lot of people, meet a lot of people that were heavy-hitters that we knew about or read about. That was neat. And to get people to treat us like we were important. As we were walking out the door, I said, ‘Linda, do you ever get over being surprised when people treat us nice?’ I’m surprised every single, solitary time. It’s just been a strange happening. When it first started out, we didn’t have a clue ... The way we look at it is that we are extraordinarily ordinary people, and the idea that people would know who we are or that people would listen to what we have to say — I wouldn’t have predicted that in a thousand, million years. Then when it took off, it went insane.”
The story began with Linda, who has been drawing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for some time because of epilepsy, brain surgery and additional health conditions. Larry said, “She has TennCare. She has to have the TennCare in order to live. If she does not have the medication, if she doesn’t have the medical care, she will die.
“Ten years ago, a good day for her was having 10 to 15 grand mal seizures. She went through brain surgery, and the last 10 to 14 years have been extraordinarily eventful, but the medication is her pathway to life.”
After Larry turned 62 last September, he decided to take early retirement and begin drawing Social Security.
“If I had to take all the dumb, stupid, worst things in my entire life that I have ever done, that one is so far to the top that there is not a second place,” he said. “The way we had it figured out, we could live if we took what she made in SSI and what I made in retirement. We weren’t going to be rich — in fact, we were going to be poor — but we would be able to pay our bills, do what we needed to do. We were going to be OK.
“After a couple of months, Social Security called us in and said, ‘You guys make way too much money.’ They were very nice, not cruel or mean or anything like that. ... But they said, ‘We have a limit on unearned income, and you guys are way over it.’”
Larry questioned how that could be, and was told that his Social Security retirement is considered unearned income. He said, “I asked them, how could that be unearned income? I worked 47 years for that. It’s my money. They said, legally it’s unearned income. They told Linda that her check for $720 was going to become $20. We were going to lose $700. I said, ‘I’ll just give the retirement back. I’ll just get another job and we’ll be OK.’ And they said, ‘Well, you can do that, but the only way you can do that is to give us back every single penny we have given you today.’ Well, if I could give it all back today, I would never have needed it to begin with.”
Larry thought he could continue drawing his retirement and also have a job to make ends meet. He said, “What they said after that has basically driven the whole situation. They said, ‘You have to understand, that because your wife is on TennCare, if you make over $85 in a month, she will lose her TennCare.’ So we went home, and we did all the figuring we could.”
Their projected budget for January would leave them with $30 for essentials such as food and gasoline, and the following months would be worse. “We looked at everything we could, trying to find a way. ... But there wasn’t a way,” Larry said. “We were in a position where, if I got a job to give us enough money to live on, it would kill my wife. It would take her insurance away, and it would kill her. If I didn’t get a job, we couldn’t live. We couldn’t live on a dollar a day. It just wasn’t doable. So on Dec. 26, after 33 years of marriage, we separated.”
The original plan was for Linda to stay with a relative until they could find her a permanent place so she could retain her SSI and TennCare. Larry would then find a place as close by as he could. Larry said, “At that time, our understanding was that, according to the way the laws were in the state of Tennessee, we would never again live together as man and wife.”
There were two possible solutions: Change Social Security laws or expand TennCare, the state’s managed Medicaid program which provides health care coverage primarily for low-income children, parents, pregnant women and elderly or disabled adults. Social Security laws were not going to be changed, but Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam could spearhead expansion of Medicaid. Larry said, “If he expanded Medicaid, then Linda didn’t have to be a member of a category, she didn’t have to be ‘disabled,’ to get it. All she had to do was be poor. If he expanded Medicaid, then she would have her insurance, which meant we could live together, I could get a job, and although we’d struggle, we would live. Without him expanding Medicaid, we had no help at all.”
Letters to governor
Larry began drawing attention to the need for TennCare expansion by writing a series of letters to the governor. Some were very personal, some general and policy oriented, but in each letter, Larry pleaded with Haslam to submit a plan for TennCare expansion. The 100th letter was emailed on Sept. 2. As of that date, the governor had not responded to the Drains, but he did announce on Aug. 28 that he plans to submit a proposal to Washington to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program. He did not release any details, however.
Larry said more than 1,200 individuals from across Tennessee have told him they also contacted Haslam. Larry’s 100th letter to the governor begins to list the names, and he plans to continue adding names in subsequent letters until every one is included.
Each letter is available atdeargovernorhaslam.wordpress.com and is viewed by 4,000 to 6,000 persons daily. In addition, a petition entitled “Gov. Haslam: Expand TennCare and Let Me Stay With My Wife!” at www.thepetitionsite.com has almost 46,000 signatures in support of the Drains.
The Drains’ story was told in the Nashville Tennessean and other major news outlets, drawing even more attention to those who, as Larry said, “didn’t fall through the cracks — we live in the cracks.”
Twenty-five miles separate this couple now. Linda is in Knox County, while Larry is in Blount County. They are waiting for the time when they can once again live together as man and wife without Linda losing her life.
Larry said, “I should not have to drive 25 miles to see my wife. It’s wrong in every sense of the word.”
Haslam may submit Medicaid expansion plan in fall
Tom Wilemon, [email protected] and The Associated Press
1 day ago
Larry McCormack / File / The Tennessean
Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that the state may soon submit a proposal to Washington to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program but did not release any new details on how it might work.