Waiting on Mental Healthcare

Waiting on Mental Healthcare

This is the “to be continued” from my April 22 post, “An explanation, not an excuse” as well as the rant about health insurance that I also promised in that post. 

 

The Truth About the Move (TheCauseCoach, October 2018) outlines the beginning of my health insurance issues since I moved out here. My “low-income” due to minimal effort in building my business in New Jersey as I was preparing for my move last summer (and totally disregarding any income from the sale of my home) left me eligible only for Illinois Medicaid.  I thought I should just be able to “transfer” my health insurance purchased through the ACA from NJ to IL; that can’t be done apparently.

Notified of this on August 13, it then took Illinois Medicaid almost SIX MONTHS to fully vet and approve my application. Calls to the ACA proved fruitless as I was told that only after being denied by Illinois Medicaid would I be eligible to purchase another low-cost option. I was approved by Medicaid in late January. However, I still had to enroll with Blue Cross Community Health Plans. I did that but wouldn’t be eligible to use doctors in their plan until March 1st.  Until then I could use a Medicaid clinic.

There were a few issues I had put off for months, so I gave that a shot.  The facility was clean, staff helpful, and there was no wait.  But I didn’t receive any help. The issues I neglected weren’t life threatening (which I knew) and I was told they weren’t worth fixing.

The other issue I wanted to discuss was the possibility I had ADHD. I have thought this since I first heard of it. I had struggled for as long as I can remember with similar symptoms and developed, as early as elementary school, coping mechanisms that allowed me to function and thrive. I have found however the struggle became more profound in recent years as I began juggling more responsibilities and experienced the loss of much of the structure in my life – and menopause.

I was completely dismissed. I was told, “if you weren’t diagnosed in childhood, then it’s not ADHD; probably anxiety and depression.” – discounting that ADHD wasn’t even a diagnosis until I was in college. I was referred to their Behavioral Health department where they said someone would call me within 48 hours. No one did. I called them after 10 days. The appointment they wanted to give me was still a few weeks away and by then I decided I’d do better with the PCP in the Blue Cross plan.

Although when I tried to make an appointment, I learned she had retired. Calls to other doctors yielded only a list of offices not accepting new Medicaid patients. I decided the best course was just to pay out of pocket ($800) to be tested. No surprise. ADHD (combined type). The psychologist that administered the test suggested that medication might help.

Part of the reason I had never felt the need to be diagnosed earlier was that I didn’t think I was interested in taking medication.  Recently however, I’ve been feeling that my inability to focus was becoming paralyzing at times and was greatly hampering my ability to execute my business plan. I have also spoken to others who have said medication was life changing. “Wow. That’s how normal people think.” The physiologist that arrived at the diagnosis however wasn’t able to subscribe medication. Back to looking for a PCP.

Finally, a call to Blue Cross got me the name of a new doctor – at another clinic. While the doctor there was not dismissive, she also wouldn’t prescribe medication based on the psychologists’ 7-page report and recommendations. She referred me to their psychiatrist. I made an appointment before I left the clinic. The earliest available was over 7 weeks away!

That appointment was this past week. I was given a prescription that I began experimenting with this week. It can take a couple weeks to work out the appropriate dosing.  The earliest date I could get for a follow-up was 4 weeks away. I’m basically on my own figuring this out until then. All in all, from the time I first mentioned to a doctor that I was looking for help with something I classified as somewhat debilitating at times, to the point where I was receiving treatment, was 14 weeks.

Why am I sharing this long story? Because it’s Mental Health Awareness Month.  ADHD is considered a mental health disorder. When I saw the first doctor who dismissed it, he asked about my medical history and current medications. He wrote me a prescription for Tamoxifen, although I told him I had just seen my oncologist in New York who had renewed the prescription; that’s not why I was there. Diseases and disorders of the body are treated very differently than mental health. Waiting for 13 weeks for help is not exactly supporting any “Stigma Free” initiative.

IMG_9886
Managing physical and mental health. Chicago, Illinois. May 2019.

 

This will not be the last that you will hear on the subject of ADHD. It’s only the beginning.

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