Health Care & Prisons

$3,000,000 for 9 People Over 6 Years in the ER

Nine people made 2,678 visits to the ER in Austin, TX over six years. Seven of the patients are mentally ill and eight are drug addicts and three are homeless. If you work it out, it averages $4,630/per person per month for six years. Or $3,000,000. The statesman.com article doesn’t mention if these folks are legal residents.

We have two problems that are constantly being spoken of in this country: one is health care, the other the prison overcrowding. There have been many articles about how illegals are draining both. I’d say there is a very valid argument there especially with the gang/violent crimes (see Chandra Levy) and the “under the radar” health care via the ER (some TX hospitals send ambulances into Mexico for critical patients). We should know what this is costing us.

But I also want to bring up the many mentally ill people who end up in prison for misdemeanors and get short term care, but fall back to old patterns once released. When you think about it, these are the same folks the ACLU fought to have freed from institutional care because they are no danger to others or themselves.

Let’s think about that for a second. Our mentally ill citizens are being cared for in the prison system. That sounds much better than institutionalized care. We’ve created two problems. We are over taxing prisons because of repeat loitering offenses and hospital ERs with short time care of folks who aren’t in a position to care for themselves and we are abandoning these same folks to the constant chaos of the streets and prison.

Something is significantly wrong here.

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