Program helps mental patients get needed medicine

mstucka@macon.comSeptember 6, 2013 

It didn’t take long for a push to help mental patients show good results.

It’s coming in the form of a grant that’s helping get more prescription medicine into the hands of patients who desperately need it.

Samantha Whisler wrote the grant application. She mentioned one River Edge Behavioral Health Center patient who, without medication, “gets kind of agitated and ends up getting into a lot of dramatic (verbal) fights because she gets angry. Now that she’s on her medication, she’s kind of happy-go-lucky, super-religious, much more independent.

“The whole point of this grant is not to just help me or help her -- it’s to help a whole lot of people in the process.”

Whisler, a former case manager at River Edge, said she hopes the $5,000 grant will last a year. The money comes from the Healthcare Employees Achieving Tomorrow fund, run by employees at The Medical Center of Central Georgia who sometimes see people with mental illness seeking help at the hospital’s emergency room.

The HEAT money could help perhaps 20 to 40 River Edge clients get medications every month through River Edge’s pharmacy, keeping the patients stable and avoiding emergency room visits.

“With their medication, they’re not a whole lot different than you or me,” Whisler said. “Without their medication, their brain doesn’t function like it should.” Those patients typically suffer from bipolar disorders or schizophrenia, which medication can help control.

But those same patients can have money for the medication one month and then not enough money the next. A full set of medications typically costs $25 to $60 per month.

“Many of our clients would go through this roller coaster effect,” said Whisler. “They’re stable one month and then have to come back off their meds because of funding.”

In a statement, River Edge’s chief executive officer, Shannon Harvey, said that “Mental health medication and treatment is effective, and recovery is to be expected. We appreciate the HEAT employees partnering with us to help people achieve recovery and build successful, healthy lives.”

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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