Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
For the psychiatrically disabled on Medicaid who live in Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris and Salem Counties in New Jersey and who do not drive, transport service is available from the State of New Jersey by which they can get to and from their doctor appointment. The service provider is Logisiticare, a large corporate outfit in Atlanta, GA.
Bookings for this door-to-door service can be made up to 30 days (but not less than two business days) in advance of an appointment. Each time one makes an appointment, one will be asked for the appointment address details and for his or her NJ Medicaid number. (To see the press release about Logisiticare's contract with the State of New Jersey, click here.)
This is another benefit available to those who are on Medicaid, underscoring for the psychiatrically disabled the importance of having their conditions properly and sufficiently diagnosed to qualify for a declaration of disability from the Social Security Administration, which then can authorize payment of Supplemental Support Income, or SSI. SSI in effect becomes a ticket to several disability benefits such as Medicaid, which can then open the door to other benefits, such as non-emergency medical transport services like Logisiticare.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Now in the fourth year of my psychodyssey, I have evolved from angst and agitation to action. This happens to many who get caught in the maelstrom of mental illness. When you get past the anger, and then the grief, eventually you get to action. So it is that I find myself here in Washington, DC, attending for the first time the national convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
It is a big affair, taking over the Washington Hilton Hotel. It has drawn consumers and family members from Alaska to Alabama, from Maine to New Mexico, from South Carolina to California. To see so many other Americans who are navigating as best they cay the storm of the maelstrom is very fortifying. I am not alone.
As a NAMI trained local Family to Family Psychoeducation course teacher, I've spent most of the conference so far attending events relating education. These have involved NAMI's Director of Education, Dr. Joyce Burland, the author of and force behind the acclaimed Family to Family Psychoeducation Course. An elegant, articulate and extraordinary empathetic lady, Dr. Burland has created what is considered one of the most effective evidence-based practices in the movement. By her pioneering work she has also given birth to a movement in its own right--an army of family peer educators who provide incredible relief, solace and information.
NAMI Family to Family, although a course to educate adults, is not an adult education course in the typical sense. In normal circumstances the pedagogy of adults involves motivated, focused, ready adult students. In NAMI's Family to Family, so much is different, because the students are traumatized. They are in shock and despair over what has befallen them. They are emotional bruised and battered. They are depressed, desperate, emotionally wounded. The Family to Family Course presents them with reams of information, but many cannot absorb it in their wounded condition.
Traditional education approaches do not work for them. The course pedagogy indeed is not to point. Just to be with others in the maelstrom, even to review information that itself can also be traumatizing in reminding them of the suffering they wish they could avoid... that is the point, and the value, and the power of the NAMI Family to Family Course experience. I know this now from the two courses that I have taught. I was much fortified and uplifted to be present here with all the other dedicated F2F teachers who know exactly what I do, and who play such important roles in stabilizing families.
Yesterday was education day. Today is legislation day. The convention delegates head en masse to Capitol Hill shortly to advocate for several major mental health initiatives. More about these later. All's well here.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
“After a year of study, and after reviewing research and testimony, the Commission finds that recovery from mental illness is now a real possibility.” (Cover letter to the President)
"In 1997, the latest year comparable data are available, the United States spent more than $1 trillion on health care, including almost $71 billion on treating mental illnesses. Mental health expenditures are predominantly publicly funded at 57%, compared to 46% of overall health care expenditures. Between 1987 and 1997, mental health spending did not keep pace with general health care because of declines in private health spending under managed care and cutbacks in hospital expenditures..."
One of the remarkable conundrums I find in my research on The System is how much reference is paid to "hope" yet how little is made to the role that religion and spirituality can play in recovery. There is, I believe, good evidence to support their helpful effects. At a recent NJ State convention of the National Association of Social Workers, I particularly found this to be the case. We do our loved ones a great disservice if we don't promote certain transcendental concepts. One is that we are all God's children, equal and worthy of innate dignity, even and especially the weakest or afflicted amongst us. Another is that hope in its purest sense comes from God. Man will always fall short and disappoint, corrupted as we mortals are by our avarice, our prejudice and our moral limitations. It was not so long ago in a certain Western country which had smashed traditional religious faith that the mentally disabled were classified as "defectives" and put to death because they were not "useful" to society.
It is reassuring to see a government commission state clearly what all desparate families with mentally disabled loved ones have long known themselves from their bitter experiences with The System...
"Of the more than two million adults in the U.S. who have at least one episode of homelessness in a given year, 46% report having had a mental health problem within the previous year."
There seems to be a very high correlation between mentally disabiilty and homelessness.
"A University of Pennsylvania study found that homeless people with mental illnesses who were placed in permanent supportive housing cost the public $16,282 less per person per year compared to their previous costs for mental health, corrections, Medicaid, and public institutions and shelters..."
Doing nothing about it is far more expensive to society.
The whole report takes about an 90 minutes to read. For those of us in the maelstrom, it is worth the time. Download the full report here.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
In America, they say, there is a support group for everything. Clicking around the UMDNJ website this evening, I found that there is one specifically for individuals with schizophrenia, called, you guessed it, Schizophrenics Anonymous. It was founded in 1985 in Detroit by Joanne Verbanic. Today it is supported by the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), which, among other things, offers a pretty good resource list. The organization has 150 groups in 31 states and a few other countries.
One of its local groups meets in New Brunswick at a facility apparently attached to the UMDNJ's University Behavioral Health program. The group bills itself as "a confidential SELF-HELP group for persons with schizophrenia or a schizophrenia-related disorder." It meets twice a month on the first and third Tuesdays of each month from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM at The Self-Help Center - Lower Level, 96 Bayard Street, New Brunswick, NJ. For more information about this group, including a contact telephone number, see: http://ubhc.umdnj.edu/adult/Schizophrenics.htm
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Just for the record...
The place to find more information about NJ Medicaid is at a nondescript website for the NJ Medicaid Management Information System, located here. But, being a very technical website principally for the use of Medicaid providers, when viewing it the common man would hardly know what it is.
The provisions of NJ Medicaid are found deep within the dense New Jersey Administrative Code. The NJAC can be found through the NJMMIS website which directs you to the New Jersey Division of Medical and Human Services site, which directs you to its Medicaid Eligibility and Services Manuals site, which directs you in turn to a Lexis-Nexis site in which, after you agree to terms, you can look at the long, dense, complicated NJ Administrative Code. For example, want to see what NJ Medicaid says about medications? Look up the "Pharmaceuticals Manual" in the NJAC, under Title 10, Chapter 51.
The list of Medicaid providers in NJ is now online here.
Changes in policies and regulations within NJ Medicaid are catalogued in its newsletter. See all the back newsletters here.
It was almost like filling out a complicated 1040 tax form. So went my disabled son's the enrollment in a new Medicare Part D prescription drug program. But now he is in a new plan, Medco's Medicare Prescription Plan--Value (PDP).
This process began in early February when my son received notice that his Part D plan provider, Fox Insurance, had been disqualified by Medicare. To meet his transitional needs, Medicare took him out of Fox and placed him in one of Medicare's own Part D plans administered by Humana. There was no apparent effect either on his status or coverage.
But Medicare instructed my son to decide, by April 30, whether to stay in the government plan into which Medicare switched him or decide anew on another private sector plan. For the past four weeks we have been trying to determine the linkages of his coverage in whatever plan between Medicare and Medicaid. We learned only yesterday, and confirmed again today, that NJ Medicaid will indeed cover payment for certain benzodiazepine medications that are excluded from the formularies of the six "bench mark" plans for which he as a "dual eligible" was eligible.
This was not an easy process by any means. But we got it done. In most cases I don't think psychiatrically disabled individuals would be able to manage this complicated process alone.