[Vision2020] Daily News Article?

Andy Boyd moscowrecycling at turbonet.com
Mon Jun 13 06:36:47 PDT 2016

Posted: Saturday, June 11, 2016 12:00 am

By Samantha Malott, Daily News staff writer | 0 comments

Public defender Charles Kovis expressed outrage at the state of mental
health care and the criminal justice system as one of his more notorious
clients, convicted murderer John Lee, appeared before a judge May 24 and
awaited a life sentence to be handed down.

Lee murdered three people, including his adoptive mother.

"Why it takes such acts as this ... to get treatment is beyond me," Kovis
said during the hearing.

Kovis told the judge and those sitting in the courtroom - many of whom were
close friends and family members of the victims of Lee's Jan. 10, 2015,
shooting rampage - that Lee's crimes were not committed out of the desire
for notoriety or revenge but because his brain is diseased. Lee has been
diagnosed with paranoid-type schizophrenia.

"His diseased brain can be treated," Kovis said. "He is untreated. He has
been untreated since day one."

Moscow Police Capt. Paul Kwiatkowski said he has known Lee - formally known
as Kane Grzebielski - and his adoptive family since he was a child.
Kwiatkowski said Lee's parents called him in May 2014 and asked him to step
in because they thought Lee was having some sort of psychotic episode.

"The issue was he was hearing things that didn't exist and it was to the
point it was causing problems within the family," he said. "I talked to Kane
and spoke with him about it and told him I would take him to the hospital."

Kwiatkowski said Lee was evaluated at Gritman Medical Center and found to be
non-committable. Following the visit, Kwiatkowski said he periodically
checked in with Lee.

"It is a terrible, sad thing that happened that could've been avoided,
maybe, but it happened," Kwiatkowski said. "If he thought like you and I, I
knew the kid, I know he wouldn't have done that."

Kwiatkowski said the majority of the mentally ill people the police come in
contact with are not dangerous. Lee, he said, was one of the outliers.

Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson agreed, stating that in his experience
Lee is an aberration.

"Whether Lee's killing could have been prevented we will never know, but at
the same time we do know there are people suffering from mental illness who
are not in the position to make good decisions for themselves and there are
inadequate resources to help those people out," Thompson said.

He said because of the nature of mental illness, their behavior can
contribute to them getting into trouble they would not have had they been

"Law enforcement is a reactive type of environment and these people need
proactive intervention," he said. "My perspective is there is not enough
adequate community resources to help keep these people stable."

More seeking help

When support services lack emergency departments, local counselors and first
responders carry the burden, which has been growing as awareness of mental
health issues throughout society has increased.

Mike Berney, executive director for Palouse River Counseling in Pullman,
said he views mental health on a continuum, ranging from a situational
issue, such as the pain or stress of losing a loved one or job, to people
with serious and persistent mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or
bipolar disorder.

Berney said PRC has seen its average of eight to 10 requests a week for
adult counseling jump to somewhere between 20 and 25 throughout the past few
years. To address the growth the facility has almost doubled its outpatient
staff, he said.

In Moscow the same trend has held true. Nicole Wheaton, director of
emergency services for Gritman Medical Center, said there has been an
increase in the number of walk-in patients seeking mental health-related
assistance at the emergency room, and W. Rand Walker, a licensed
psychologist at Educational and Psychological Services in Moscow, said his
office has noticed an increase in consulting calls from physicians.

"We have a shortage, I think, of a full range of mental health services
regionally, which means most mental health providers have a lot of pressure
on their schedule," Walker said.

Walker said 20 percent of the U.S. population deals with some form of mental
illness, but only 40 percent of them will seek treatment. He said some of
that is the result of the misbelief that mental illness is a sign of
weakness or failure.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said residents struggling with mental
health issues are a growing concern for law enforcement, but just how many
people are suffering is hard to track because in many cases police are
called for a separate report, such as a theft or disorderly conduct, and
then discover it is a mental health issue.

Getting help

An individual in need of mental health services can seek out assistance on
his or her own or be brought to the hospital for immediate treatment by
emergency responders.

Dr. Pete Mikkelsen, medical director for the Pullman Regional Hospital
emergency department, said often a friend or relative will call 911 with
concerns about someone and police will locate the individual and make an
assessment. Jenkins said if officers determine the individual is suffering
from some sort of breakdown or acting in a criminal manner because of a
mental health issue, he or she is transported to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, Washington and Idaho have different processes, but
both states share the same end-goal of getting the individual to a place he
or she can receive support.

Mikkelsen said hospital staff first evaluate if there is a non-mental health
issue occurring that could be causing the behavior, and "if we feel
comfortable that isn't what's going on we refer to the behavioral health

Berney said a counselor's response can range from a crisis situation where
someone just needs a plan formulated and to be told there is voluntary help
available to an involuntary treatment investigation. Mikkelsen said if the
designated mental health provider - which at PRH is Palouse River Counseling
- finds there is reasonable ground to involuntarily commit the patient, the
individual is transferred to either Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake
or another facility that can provide a higher level of service.

PRH also recently began using a tele-psychology service that allows patients
to undergo an evaluation by a psychologist remotely, Mikkelsen said. The
program was adopted because local providers were becoming so busy with
patients at their clinics that it was difficult to get to the hospital, he

In Idaho the process is generally the same, as an individual who comes in
either voluntarily or in custody is evaluated for safety first, Wheaton
said. The individual can be put on a hold by either the physician or police
after approval from a judge, which then triggers a designated examiner from
the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to respond for a second opinion,
she said.

For every 24 hours patients are at Gritman they have to be evaluated by a
designated examiner to ensure they aren't being held too long, she said.

Lack of services

Wheaton said issues with community resources arise if a patient has shown
enough improvement to be released but still needs help.

"The biggest issue is that there isn't enough beds for people, so ultimately
they are released before they get all the treatment they need," Jenkins

Wheaton said just because a hospital has an inpatient unit doesn't mean
there is space. A facility may also not have room within a specific need,
such as a "calm bed" compared to someone having a psychotic breakdown who
needs a secure and private bed, she said.

Berney said because of the shortage of beds, individuals who were once
hospitalized for a period of time are now being released and managed in the

"It poses kind of a dilemma where you worry that they are going to bounce
back and need help," Wheaton said.

Services all come down to money, Kwiatkowski said, and when funding gets cut
mental health is often the first to go.

"The experiment that Idaho has engaged in, in privatizing public health
services, has been a disaster," Thompson said. "The federal and state
government, neither of them seem to be willing to invest the resources
needed to properly care for mentally ill people."

Walker said he believes one the biggest issues is a lack of proper
diagnostic services. Walker said he has seen cases in which an individual
was misdiagnosed and could have been effectively treated with five or six
counseling sessions, but instead has become dependant on medication or
long-term treatment.

Insurance coverage is also an issue, he said.

"We have people who work for major entities in our community who don't have
that access," Walker said. "... I can tell you, as a provider, we are
constantly dealing with insurance companies who don't want to provide that
and a lot of that starts with the companies."

Berney said the Affordable Care Act has provided people with better access,
but many people still don't have proper coverage.

"We try to get people in as quick as we can, but there are a lack of
psychiatrists and there are long wait lists," he said. "There is a shortage
of doctors and counselors, but more people with access."

Mikkelsen addressing these issues is important to create a healthier
community. Wheaton said she believes the community has been working to "beef
up" mental health support, but it will take time to see the results.

Samantha Malott can be reached at (208) 883-4639, or by email to
smalott at dnews.com.

-----Original Message-----
From: vision2020-bounces at moscow.com [mailto:vision2020-bounces at moscow.com]
On Behalf Of Saundra Lund
Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2016 11:41 AM
To: 'Moscow Vision 2020' <vision2020 at moscow.com>
Subject: [Vision2020] Daily News Article?


While at the store yesterday, I saw that the Daily News' Samantha Malott
wrote an article about our failing mental health system.  Unfortunately, I
wasn't able to read the entire article and am hoping someone could please
post it here for discussion.

This is an important topic, particularly here in Moscow where we've had two
mass shootings and serious mental illness reportedly played a role in both.
Which, BTW, makes Caroline Nilson Troy's political positions -- or
non-positions -- particularly inappropriate here, something I certainly hope
voters remember.

>From the part of the article I was able to read, I'm reminded how proud I am
that we have dedicated public defenders *and* a dedicated prosecuting
attorney's office *and* dedicated law enforcement officers who recognize
both the importance and the role in mental illness in those who come in
contact with the justice system *and* the necessity/importance of having
adequate community mental health resources.  I had the pleasure -- and it
was a real pleasure -- to attend MPD's Civilian Police Academy last year,
and I was extremely proud to find I live in a community where each time the
topic of mental illness came up (including during my ride-along), there
seemed to be a culture of keen awareness from the top down.  I'm personally
completely convinced that outcomes of situations I've been aware of
throughout the years likely would have been far different but for that
awareness, as we've seen in tragic cases around the country.

Saundra Lund
Moscow, ID

Every individual matters.  Every individual has a role to play.  Every
individual makes a difference.
~ Jane Goodall

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