Iowa MHI Closings and MeTV Imitates Life

I saw the news story about the shortage of psychiatrists in Iowa and Governor Branstad’s plan to shut down two of the state’s Mental Health Institutes (Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant). Dr. Al Whitters mentions that his hospital now boards patients in the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center while the hospital searches for psychiatric hospitals to transfer them because Mercy has no beds.

I was on duty this weekend like I have been about every other weekend at our hospital and we have been having the same challenges. I agree with Dr. Whitters. It isn’t so much the closing of the two MHIs I want to stop. It’s the lack of a plan for improving inpatient mental health care that concerns me.

And then later this evening my wife and I were watching MeTV and we saw an old episode of Hawaii Five O which first aired in October of 1971, called “…And I Want Some Candy and a Gun That Shoots.” It’s about a young Vietnam veteran with mental illness who buys a high-powered rifle with a scope, goes to a bunker at Diamond Head and starts shooting, mainly at police officers, killing a couple of them.

I was struck by what an actor playing a psychiatrist said about the state of inpatient psychiatric care back then which sounds very similar to what it is now, over 40 years later. It’s about 28 min into the video below.

I felt like I was caught in a time warp, although you could argue that a geezer who watches MeTV has every reason to be persistently caught in one. Except for the pat psychobabble about incestuous drives and whatnot, Dr. Fernando says things I probably have paraphrased but little over the past few years, “…there are not enough beds…” “We don’t have the time or the staff…”All we can do is to help them, to work with them…” “…and when they appear stable enough, we have to send them home to make room for more disturbed people…”

And I’m sure some families have thought exactly what McGarrett said to the doctor’s last comment, “Here’s a tranquilizer, here’s your hat; is that what you’re talking about?” To which the frustrated Dr. Fernando says, “We play the cards we’re dealt, and do the best we can.”

Life is not a TV show, but sometimes art imitates life.



  1. kenyattayamel says:

    Reblogged this on A Little Local Color.


%d bloggers like this: