Sunday, March 21, 2004

Activist finds change overdue



Barbara Fitch knows well what can happen to families with members with mental illness.

"From my seat on the board of Children's Hospital, I've seen the growth of the problem that families are having," Fitch said. A long-time member of the Junior League of Cincinnati, she works on the advocacy team of the league's MindPeace, a collaborative project with Children's to help expand mental health services for children (jlcincinnati.org/Projects/mindpeace.htm).

For many area families, she says, such help is long overdue.

"A little over a year ago, I met one family who had a very comfortable, affluent lifestyle. Then they had children diagnosed with mental health problems.

"Their insurance was not able to step up. Diagnostic tests were covered, but beyond that it was out of their own pocket. The mom had to leave her part-time job and take a full-time job. They had to sell their house."

When MindPeace began, Fitch asked Junior League members to check their own insurance. "Those who were able to do so came back facing the reality that the benefits would not be there if someone in their family were diagnosed with a mental illness," she said.

Fitch has worked with state officials on solutions such as Rep. Lynn Olman's pending mental health parity bill. "I was very pleased and surprised it passed the House ... ," she said. "The bill, should it pass, is not nearly what it should be, but it's a lot better than nothing."

Ray Cooklis




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THE SERIES
Mentally ill children in Ohio are abused by the system: Care is hard to find, often wretched, and so costly some parents give up their kids to get government help.

Day 1:
Bargain: custody for care
Help elusive
Everything spent, and no help
She needed diagnosis, medicine
What to do?
Activist finds change overdue

Day 2:
Abused, drugged and unprotected
An offer of help, take it or leave it
Cases swamp Children's Hospital
Officials: Room for waste

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