Mental health clinic director says need is rising, resources falling

"It's not my Vladimir," said Merizia Baptiste, "I don't know. I watched TV and I didn't know it was him."

Baptiste says she still has trouble believing that it was her son, 27-year-old Vladimir Baptiste, who crashed a truck into the WMAR lobby . When we spoke to her Tuesday evening, she told us that he was supposed to be in a drug rehab program that morning. He's been in and out of rehab, she says, since he was 21.

"It's very clear that the subject is suffering from mental health issues. That's very clear," Baltimore County Police Chief Johnson said during a Tuesday press conference.

Read Baptiste's bizarre tweets as police scoured the building for him.

Baptiste confirms her son went through two mental health evaluations in the past with the hope that he could get the help he needs.

"Frankly, the resources for what we do have been going down, while the demand has been going up," said Jeff Richardson, Executive Director of Mosaic Community Services.

Richardson says his organization reaches out to 10,000 people with mental health and addiction issues. He says one in four Americans are suffering from mental health needs, and almost 60% of them aren't getting the help.

"Mental illness is a successfully treated disease," he said. "The brain is an organ. Sometimes we forget that. It should be treated like any other organ in the body. Chronic mental illness should also be treated like any other disease. Resources are available throughout the individual's need for care."

He call the lack of resources a problem, and the stigma surrounding mental health isn't helping.

"There's still a huge, huge underlying fear of people talking about this," Richardson said. "And again when we talk about the huge numbers of people that can benefit from these services, and the ones it's not reaching--- people are still suffering; the suffering doesn't disappear."

It's not just the ones who are suffering who can reach out. It's important for friends and family to take notice and step up.

"No man is an island," he said. "We live in our own communities, we have friends, families, neighbors, and it's important that we understand when we see someone struggling to help them get the resources they need."

State Delegate Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) is also an emergency room doctor, who has diagnosed patients with mental illness.

“The reality is it's never going to be 100 percent,” he said.  “You simply cannot catch every single person, every single condition 100 percent of the time, you try and get as close to that ideal goal as possible"

In this year's legislative session Del. Morehaim helped created a new, "Behaviorial Health Administration" that combines mental health and addiction programs; because, he says, the two problems often go hand in hand.

“The challenge is to really make them work. I mean they can look good on paper but they have to translate into reality,” he said.  “It's not a cookie-cutter operation; one size does not fit all.”

Some patients do refuse treatment.  If family members believe the mental issues are serious enough, they can contact police and have the loved one be “forcibly evaluated.”  Del. Morhaim says the General Assembly has formed a work group to study standards on those evaluations as well.

The vast majority of patients with mental health issues never commit crimes.  Still, Del. Morhaim says it will never be possible to fully predict what a person might do.

“The reality is it's never going to be 100 percent. You simply cannot catch every single person, every single condition 100 percent of the time, you try and get as close to that ideal goal as possible,” he said. 

 

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