In January, a group of teenage girls showed up at the state Capitol, begging just about any official who would listen not to end a state-sponsored drug and alcohol treatment program.
The long-term residential treatment program, in which young people lived with other recovering addicts in group homes, was being phased out in favor of mostly outpatient therapy that would allow state dollars to stretch further.
You can’t treat addictions that way, the girls said. Someone will be hurt, they pleaded.
The program shut down a few months later. As a result, an 18-year-old alcoholic named Barbara Wells was sent home several months shy of completing the program at a group home called Katharos in Griffin.
Less than three months later, she was dead.
Her mother, Diane Lankford, says Wells got drunk and choked to death on her own vomit at the home of a 30-year-old man. Police charged him with providing alcohol to someone underage, but they are waiting on toxicology results to officially list a cause of death.
I grew up in Jackson, LA, before departing for ten years in Dubai, UAE. Jackson is the Milledgeville of Louisiana, if you will; the home of the state’s Mental Hospital. In fact, I grew up in a nice antebellum home just a few blocks from the hospital’s property.
In the late 70’s, there was a movement to send the mentally ill out into society and care for them outside of institutions. It was allegedly more humane and saved money. The two and the lives of the mentally ill both deteriorated.
I am absolutely not an expert by any means. But in both my personal experience and in hearing so many stories from so many others, I think the state really needs to reassess whether the cost savings of out patient treatment is enough to outweigh the greater benefits of in-patient or residential care treatment.