“Treatment saves lives” and “People are dying!” were some of the strong messages on protester’s placards as they picketed outside the San Clemente City Council chambers on April 18th to protest the city’s extreme restrictions on sober living homes. The group chanted, prayed and enacted overdose death scenes to bring home their concerns about the discriminatory ordinances adopted by the city council.
Highlighting the city’s biased attitudes toward people seeking professional treatment for mental ailments and drug addiction, the protestors demanded a repeal of the draconian ordinances on short-term lodging and boarding houses. “Every human being deserves to lead a life of dignity,” said a substance-abuse counselor, citing a court ruling that any form of discrimination against the disabled is illegal. Emphasizing on the dangers of social ostracism, some of the protestors said that people deserve to live in the communities they love, and be able to receive quality care and treatment in their same neighborhoods.
Sober living homes, rehabilitation clinics and detox centers have been proliferating throughout Orange County in recent years, especially in the vicinity of San Clemente’s residential neighborhoods. Increasing numbers of residents seem to be falling into the clutches of the “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) syndrome; despite the fact that the facilities that have sprung up meet state and local regulations, several San Clementians have voiced hostile and aggressive opposition to the presence of rehabs in their neighborhood.
In 2016, anticipating a spike in crime and other serious threats to neighborhood safety and tranquility, a task force of San Clemente residents conducted a signature campaign urging the California State Legislature to pass a law empowering local municipalities to regulate sober living homes and addiction treatment facilities. The growing uneasiness among the locals compelled the San Clemente City Council to adopt zoning ordinances to curb the overcrowding of rehabs and treatment facilities operating within the periphery of the city’s residential neighborhoods.
Despite the nationwide opioid crisis and growing attention to addiction and mental health issues, there has been an outright attack on the life-saving behavioral and mental health services in California. In February 2016, four separate bills, AB 2403, SB 1283, AB 2772 and AB 2255,were introduced. The legislation have severely limited the expansion of rehabs and sober living facilities statewide, and caused others to permanently close their doors. California has a long, proud celebrated history of compassionate treatment and care of individuals with disabilities and those struggling with complex and rare medical conditions. The new, regressive ordinances, however, could result in a society that excludes people with special health needs.
Ignoring Mental Health Problems Can Be Life-Threatening
The new California laws fuel the already prevalent problem of stigma surrounding substance use and mental health issues. Despite the fact that all major health organizations—the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Psychiatric Association—have classified addiction as a treatable brain disease, prejudice and fear endure. The cultural view of vulnerability as a weakness increases the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Talking about depression or addiction is still not widely acceptable. Even close friends and family members don’t give the same amount of importance to mental health ailments as they do to other physical illnesses.
But the numbers are compelling. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults struggles with a mental illness. One in 10 Americans has a drug and/or alcohol problem. Opioid use is skyrocketing in nearly every state. There is a consistent shortage of beds at health care facilities to accommodate people with mental health and substance use issues. Millions of U.S. residents lack health care insurance. Studies show that in a bid to self-medicate, individuals battling mental health problems also fall prey to substance use disorders.
Research on mental health and substance use shows that the best outcomes occur when these diseases are treated in the same manner any chronic disease is treated—with regular check-ups, monitoring treatment adherence, and educating patients and their families. But if there is a lack of treatment centers and recovery residences, where will checkups and monitoring happen? How will professionals help patients stay healthy, and reach out to those who are having trouble following their treatment plan?
San Clemente and other cities are simply pushing “the problem” off into other cities and counties that do not have restrictive ordinances. This will not make people in need of treatment better—in fact, it may make them worse off. These cities can push people out of their backyards, but people with a need for mental health and substance use treatment will still be in their workplaces and schools and communities. And in the yard next door.
A Message from Sovereign Health
Mental health disorders must be nipped in the bud or else they can be immensely devastating. Do not let them grow to a point where there is no chance of recovery. Despite the availability of several effective treatments, the stigma of being branded as a weak person prevents many from overcoming mental illness through receiving professional help. However, the help and support of family members goes a long way in reducing the stigma associated with the illness.
Knowing how to deal with mental illnesses on the same level as other chronic diseases demands a thorough screening and mental health diagnosis. Doing so increases the chance of recovery.
Sovereign Health provides treatments for all kinds of mental health disorders as well as any underlying health condition. Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized mental health treatment programs suited to treat the person holistically. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy, or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives.
Whether you want to know how to overcome mental illness or are looking for mental illness treatment centers in California or at a place closer home, we have facilities in all major places in the country. Our residential mental health facilities in California are among the best in the nation. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 819-0427 or chat online to know about the causes of mental illness or the most effective recovery programs to treat them at the earliest.