Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bush's Next Firing

Mr. President, send out the letter today canning this guy. He's Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and from what I can tell, he's using our troops to wrangle some more money from his programs.

How else can you explain this?
The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government's top psychiatric researcher said.

Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven't provided enough scientifically sound care, especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington.
Really? These are numbers we can believe?

Let's see. There have been about 4,500 deaths of US troops on both fronts and 430 suicides among the 1.7 million US troops that have served in the two combat theaters.

For Insel's prediction to come true, suicide frequency will have to grow ten-fold. While that seems unlikely at first blush, you have to remember that when the war ends, the number of combat fatalities will stop growing, but suicides will continue for years afterwards. Insel is obviously figuring that over time, the suicide stats will slowly build until one day they pass combat fatalities.

But how long will have to pass before Insel will say that war was not the primary factor in the suicide? Two? Ten? Twenty? It is improbable that even without enough mental health clinics in rural areas that Insel's prediction will come true within a reasonable number of years.

Besides, will every suicide of a war vet be attributed to the war even when there are obviously other more significant factors?

Finally, in blaming the lack of government-funded mental health facilities, Insel overlooks other sources of counseling: health insurance funded programs, a guy whipping out his wallet and paying for it himself, families taking care of their own, or counseling through churches and other caring organizations.

It couldn't be more obvious that Insel is trolling for dollars and has figured out a way to cook the stats to justify the argument.

Look, I think anything less than first class care for returning vets stinks, especially since the cost differential between so-so care and stellar care is inconsequential. A lot of returning vets will need counseling and they should be able to get it. If they're living far out in the sticks, they may have to go somewhere other than a neat little clinic funded by NIMH. C'est la vie. People who live in the country understand this phenomenon and choose to live there nonetheless; it doesn't mean every West Virginia holler and Oklahoma crossroads needs an NIMH crew at the ready.

What I don't like is a federal bucks-hunter distorting the problem, then riding it into the budget gladiator arena, hoping it's the right weapon to take money away from some other deserving program -- especially when his weapon of choice reflects badly on on war effort and the valiant men and women who are fighting it.

One suicide is too many ... especially when someone is exploiting it.

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