There is a Place

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

There is a place in the night when sleep won’t come,

When all of our attempts toward slumber fail and we lay awake murmuring, “Why?”

It is in this place, that if we quiet our minds,

We can hear angels explain our situation to us in a new way,

We can perceive new solutions to old problems,

We can make plans that before seemed daunting.

There is a place in the night when sleep won’t come,

And when you hit it, don’t panic, don’t wrestle,

But lay in silence and listen,

You will most assuredly hear the sound of wisdom,

And a still small voice saying, “Don’t give up, I love you!!”

The Conundrum of for Profit Healthcare

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

There was a point in my life when I thought that capitalism was the source of all of the pain in the world.  I would castigate family members as greedy hoarders of wealth.  I would quote pro socialist and pro-communist literature.  I would tout appropriate bible verses such as Paul’s avowal that “The Love of Money is the root of all evil”.  But as I have aged, I have very much softened on the idea of Capitalism and its ills.  And really now believe  that some hybrid economic system which blends the ambition of for profit creativity with a social welfare state that tends to individuals who have more difficulty thriving in free market enclaves .

 

However, when it comes to Healthcare, I often feel the “pro Fidel Castro” side of my personality vying for dominance over my greater moderation.  So tonight I thought that I would explore with you, just what my misgivings are surrounding what I term, “The For Profit Healthcare Imperative.”  As I journey through and out of severe and persistent mental illness many of my favorite providers charge me for their services.  And I have no problem with them charging me for their services as I believe they do impeccable work and deserve to be remunerated for that work.  Similarly, I have no problem with people getting rich, and hope to one day be one of them.  It doesn’t cause me any pangs of anger or outrage when I see Louis Hay a billionaire, or Joel Osteen as a multimillionaire.  I believe that these people of faith and healing are popular because their messages create joy and healing, and that popularity makes them rich through the sale of books and the preponderance of speaking engagements that they receive.

 

But I think that something is devastatingly wrong when hospitals intentionally keep people sick, just so they can have a higher census.  I think something is radically awry, when pharmaceutical companies create subpar products which will not alleviate symptoms as much as others they have tested because of the higher profits they will yield with the less helpful meds.  I just spent 2 years working in for profit healthcare, and while the people were very nice, it often felt like we were selling cars instead of trying to bring people to a state of health and wellness.  I think that really is one of the big misnomers about for profit healthcare; this idea that you can run a healthcare company in the same way that you run a real estate firm or an antique business when PEOPLE’S LIVES AND QUALITY OF LIFE ARE AT STAKE.

 

If you run a health care company and you do not prioritize people’s health and wellness over your profit margin, you will invariably end up sacrificing people’s wellbeing for your bottom line.  But the really unfortunate irony of for profit healthcare, is that if you do as you ought and prioritize people’s health and wellness over your profit margin, you will very likely go out of business.  And so now we see that “The For Profit Imperative” in healthcare creates a system of winners who are providing subpar care to patients and clients and losers who are providing excellent care but who can compete with those who are doing unethical things for the sake of profit.

 

EF Shumaker wrote a book entitled “Small is Beautiful.”  Perhaps the problem in the “For Profit Imperative” scenario is the same as the problem in de facto free market competition.  When unregulated entities become too large, they begin to dominate the industry often with problematic business practices, whereas smaller more excellence driven providers are too small to generate the kinds of economies of scale to stay competitive.

 

So what’s my solution?  Well one solution may be to force all healthcare initiatives to operate as 501-C3’s consequently negating the kind of wall street graft that can enter in when they become a publicly traded company and also keeping operating profit as a priority that is clearly below successful healing and health and wellness.  And so here is my take home.  Healthcare is a vastly different industry than real estate, or automobiles, or utilities because people’s suffering and recovery from that suffering is sacred and should always be prioritized above any sort of fiscal bottom line.  And a free market economy that rewards company’s for prioritizing health and wellness over profit will be a free market society of healthy people, but a free market economy that rewards prioritizing profit over health and wellness will be a society with a quality of life index similar to a 3rd world nation, which is exactly the scenario in the United States.

 

Namaste and God Bless!! Woody

The Mystery of Severe and Persistent Mental Illness

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Tonight, I watched the movie “Misery” on HBO. “Misery” is a 1990 American psychological horror film starring Kathy Bates and James Caan.  In the movie, Kathy Bates plays a mentally imbalanced woman who is obsessed with author James Caan who as a consequence of her obsession torments Caan throughout the movie, until Caan finally kills her in self-defense.  The movie was one of the best that I have seen and was riveting from beginning to end.  However, it also created mixed emotions within me.  As I was watching the movie, mesmerized by Bates’ nefarious pathology, I thought to myself, “I wonder if this woman is the caricature that dominates the public view of mental illness?”

 

I am not sure, but it sometimes seems to me like individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness are often viewed either as hapless victims to be rescued or menacing monsters to be contained;  when the reality is much more heterogeneous and varied than those extreme stereotypes.  I could be overstating my perception, but it seems like I often here people throwing out DSM diagnoses like they are judgments, insults, or general states of being.  Like I often hear people say, “Oh he’s such a narcissist!!”  or “Stop being so OCD” or “I am so depressed by what’s going on in the NBA Finals.”  I think the danger in phrases like these is that they completely ignore the reality that there are real people who are suffering in real suffering as a consequence of these ailments, and that this suffering can be extremely painful to endure.   Like I rarely hear anyone say, “Oh he so has Prostate Cancer!” or “Girl, I am so full of breast cancer over what happened today!!”  People do not casually throw around physical diagnoses because they realize that these diagnoses are difficult to deal with and very serious.  Illnesses like Cancer, Diabetes, even Aids evoke compassion and empathy.  But illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar often evoke fear and ridicule.

 

As a person who is overcoming severe and persistent mental illness, I have often dreamed of having a “real illness” which I could face with heroism instead of stigma.  I have often imagined myself surrounded by family and friends on my hospital bed, smiling as I looked forward into the heaven that awaited me.  Not begging God night after night to abate my symptoms so that I can perform in excellence on my job.  Or carrying extra Ativan around with myself in case I have an “episode” while  taking care of my kids.  Although I know that I am a hero for overcoming the things that I have overcome.  And although I know that I am a saint for enduring with hope the things that I have endured.  I believe it would be much easier to just be diagnosed with something “real” that others could understand, than the mystery that is severe and persistent mental illness.

 

There is no scientific cure for severe and persistent mental illness; and as a consequence hopelessness is often instilled into people who suffer with this malady by the very practitioners who are supposed to be healing them.  I thank God every day that when I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder I had belief in a higher power that was beyond science’s reach.  Similarly, you are often viewed as insane if you mention the words “demon” or “spiritual imbalance” to a psychiatrist.  Yet the very communities like Pentacostals or New Agers who have the faith to bring about healing are often totally against the use of psychotropic meds.  I have even heard someone who I highly respect tell me that she thought mental illness was “a deception of the devil.”  The ignorance, myopia, judgment, and immaturity that plagues the public and mental health practitioners concerning mental illness, forces me to view severe and persistent mental illness as a mystery that we have yet to solve.  In honesty, I do not have the patience to wait for this society to obtain the love, compassion, empathy, understanding, faith, hope, and generosity necessary to solve the overall problem of mental illness.  Case in point, I see very few ribbons on people’s cars or fund raising initiatives to cure “mental illness.”  As a consequence, I am quite satisfied with obtaining my own healing with the faith and grace that God has given me, and then seeing what I can offer others.  Because if I wait for stigma and ignorance concerning this malady to disappear, I think that I will be waiting a long time.