Doug Gross lives in Kansas, when he has a place to live. Too often, he’s on the streets because he has bipolar disorder. Because he has no insurance, his illness is not managed well. He cycles from mania to despression and back again, and often doesn’t remember what happened when he was experiencing mania.
As with any chronic illness, the symptoms just get worse when the illness isn’t managed, and people who have psychiatric illness often don’t get the care they need. More than half of people in state prisons and local jails are there because they need help and can’t get it anywhere else. And jail is the most expensive and least appropriate place to treat psychiatric illness.
Doug has been chronically homeless and has been arrested several times — most recently for mouthing off to a police officer, according to his sister, Cynthia Sutherland, who lives here in North Carolina. Because he had a psychiatric crisis and needed medical help, he was shipped off to a psychiatric hospital, where he was stabilized.
But Doug developed another medical problem — he began experiencing rectal bleeding — and the hospital has refused to perform a colonoscopy because they only treat psychiatric illness.
Doug’s court-appoionted attorney argued that he needs diagnostic tests and treatment, but a judge agreed with the psychiatric hospital.
His sister, Cindi Sutherland, called me to ask what she could do to force the hospital to send her brother for tests.
My only answer is that she should try to shame the hospital into doing what’s right. Call the newspaper and the television stations in Kansas to let them know what’s happening. Try to get word out that her brother is being denied care for a condition that could be fatal.
Cindi and I researched the media in around where Doug is hospitalized, but no one responded to Cindi’s letter. I made a few calls and one reporter called back, but no story was written because, as the reporter asked Cindi, “How do we know he really has rectal bleeding if he’s bipolar?”
As though one had anything to do with the other.
Recently, things got even woprse for Doug when the doctors took him off his medications for bipolar disorder. Cindi says he has become more agitated and isn’t able to sleep for more than a short time. He hasn’t had a complete night’s sleep since Christmas.
Cindi has contacted advocacy groups and an attorney, but no one seems to be able to do anything for him.
The hospital and the state get away with this kind of abuse because no one is shining a light on any of it. The media no longer do investigative or enterprise reporting, and people like Doug Gross suffer in the dark.