Crime and schizophrenia
Many people who suffer from schizophrenia go untreated, and often only find help after being jailed for a petty or frivolous offense.
"Some people never find their way into the system," said John A. Chiles, MD, professor of psychiatry at the Health Science Center and medical director of the Center for Health Care Services, the county mental health agency. "If they do, it's often into the legal system through petty crime."
One local patient attempted a bank robbery while pointing a paintbrush at the teller. "Give me some money," he demanded. "How about $6.25?" asked the skeptical teller. "OK," he agreed. He was apprehended outside the bank and charged with armed robbery.
"There are more schizophrenics in the Bexar County Jail than there are in the San Antonio State Hospital," says Dr. Chiles. "And this is similar to many cities across the country. People with schizophrenia have no spokesman. They have no powerful advocates like victims of diseases that don't affect the brain. These people aren't good at speaking about their problems or raising funds or even creating sympathy for their cause."
The cost of care is expensive, and many families cannot afford the care a relative needs. To manage the problem, Dr. Chiles says, "We need to treat their substance abuse, involve their families, provide more choices for living arrangements outside of the hospital, continue our research and encourage agencies to work together."
Publicly funded care is at a premium, especially in Texas. The state is No. 49 among states in funding for mental health and Bexar County has the lowest funding among Texas urban areas.
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