Best of #StateReads: When a State Runs Out of Psychiatric Beds

By: - June 6, 2012 12:00 am

This week’s collection of #StateReads chronicles the social costs of dwindling psychiatric services in Vermont, explores the “shocking” outcomes under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and highlights a big fight over an obscure bill about dentists in North Carolina.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to [email protected].

“Sleeping in Vermont Dumpster shows psychiatric cuts’ cost” — Bloomberg

A decades-long trend of states closing psychiatric facilities may be winding to an end, writes Tom Moroney (@tmoroney). Officials in Alabama, Massachusetts and New York faced opposition when they suggested closing facilities, but the hardest-hit state may be Vermont. The state is the only one in the country that does not have government-run psychiatric beds, Moroney writes, because flooding from Hurricane Irene wiped out the last 54 last summer. The result has been more frequent calls to the police, long waits for private beds and possibly even an uptick in the suicide rate.

“Florida ‘stand your ground’ law yields some shocking outcomes depending on how law is applied” — Tampa Bay Times

The Tampa Bay Times dug deeper into the “Stand Your Ground” law that is at the heart of the legal controversy over the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. Reporters Kris Hundley, Susan Taylor Martin and Connie Humburg (@TB_Times) found that the law has been applied unevenly since taking effect in 2005. “If you claim ‘stand your ground’ as the reason you shot someone,” the team wrote, “what happens to you can depend less on the merits of the case than on who you are, whom you kill and where your case is decided.” The paper looked at nearly 200 cases where shooters claimed the defense and found that nearly 70 percent of those who invoked it went free. On Monday, Florida’s lieutenant governor said the state will use the paper’s analysis in its own review of the law.

“Republicans hit dental bill that private equity hates” — Bloomberg

A seemingly obscure bill in North Carolina about dentistry has perked the interest of some big names from out of state, write Sydney P. Freedberg and Jason Kelly (@JKellyBloomberg). House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office heard from Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, Tommy Thompson and Bill Frist about the legislation, which would restrict dental management companies. Those companies typically provide office support for dentists, but now the dentists worry that they are “exerting control over the dental practice,” too. Five other states are also investigating the companies. But the management companies have powerful allies, especially the Wall Street investors who fund them.

“Jeb Bush taking Florida education ideas nationwide” — StateImpact Florida

Jeb Bush left the Florida governor’s office more than five years ago, but he is still having a big impact on state education policies around the country, writes John O’Connor (@JohnROConnor). He helped convince Indiana lawmakers to require third graders to pass a reading test or get held back, a proposal similar to one he pushed in Florida when he was governor. He has traveled to Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas to champion similar ideas, helped presidential nominee Mitt Romney draft an education platform and earned praise from President Obama for his work on schools. But, O’Connor writes, Bush faces a backlash over some of his proposals, especially as teachers and lawmakers have grown sour on standards-based education laws.

“Michigan law to help lift financial burden of autism therapy” — Detroit Free Press

Michigan will soon become the 30th state in the nation to require insurers to cover therapy for autistic children, reports Robin Erb of the Free Press (@Freep), but an advocate says Michigan’s will be one of the “most robust.” The law goes beyond an insurance mandate, because it provides funding to insurers to cover the cost of therapies. Now, the challenge Michigan faces is making sure there are enough therapists to cover the anticipated demand.

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