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Gun Violence


This evening, I am frayed. After counseling another mother distraught and sobbing about the death of her son from gun violence in Kansas City, Kansas there is little left to say. This week Family Health Care (FHC) lost two of our own to gun violence and we treated two others with gunshot wounds. Social determinants of health are strongly evident regarding gun violence. All these and the police officer shot last week were within a few blocks. 

Those readers who are ardent about the “2nd amendment” and interpret it to mean everyone in our country should be armed to the teeth will want to stop reading now. It is true that people kill people. It is also true that humans kill more efficiently with tools or weapons. The Neanderthals learned that when they developed spears to improve their hunting prowess.   

The cost of terrible gun violence is great. Every day 31 people in the US are murdered by gun violence. Every day 31 mother’s lose a son or daughter to a bullet. Sometimes it is because friends lose their temper and fire off not only epitaphs, but deadly bullets. Without a gun they might hurt the other’s feelings, or even break a nose or split a lip, but it is far less likely they will kill. The difference between an argument that becomes violent and stops with recoverable injury and one that ends in death is often simply that a loaded gun is at hand. In three of the cases affecting FHC this week, the person shot was dis-engaging from an argument. They were walking away when the shooter shot them from the back. Two of them will never have another argument, they were hushed- forever. 

More guns result in more death and more lifetimes of regret for the survivors. Guns that fire off scores of killing bullets in a few moments like at Sandy Hook or Aurora are even worse. Keeping guns and ammunition from the hands of known crazy folks or known violent people is a moderate idea for prevention of some of these deaths. Prevention is the work we do each day. I am saddened by these deaths and I worry about who is next. FHC is taking up a collection to help with the burials. Both of the young men who died got their vaccinations at FHC as children. But, there is no vaccine to protect them from gun violence.




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Mental Illness

Family Health Care helps those with mental illness:

The intersection of charity and mental illness has long been a difficult place to stand.  It is no wonder we as a society have a “schizophrenic” attitude toward mental illness.  Sometimes those who suffer move silently with barely a ripple in our social pond, but too often we see the results of untreated mental illness at the other extreme when people who are mentally ill make waves and become destructive, abusive or even deadly. 

The concept of releasing mentally ill patients to provide out-patient community mental health treatment, made popular in the 1980’s, works for some.  But many, who are left on their own, inevitably make bad decisions.  They stop treatment, they alienate family and often wind up without good options. 

Family Health Care has always tried to provide a safe place for people with mental illnesses to come for medical treatment and sometimes just to get in from the cold for a bit.  It is not uncommon to have a patient with minor complaints stay through the day- sleeping on an exam bed and with a sandwich and juice before they go out to stay  beside Turkey Creek.  Sometimes we give them a blanket, or some foam rubber padding to sleep on.  

Sometimes we are able to get them to a shelter.  But almost never are we able to get them into an effective treatment center.  They don’t exist anymore.



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"The refusal of the Kansas and Missouri governments to implement Medicaid expansion is short-sighted and mostly ignorant (ie- lacking knowledge). Worse, although it has been clear for years how the decision would affect low-income people in both our states, the legislators and governors have refused to even prepare for the changing situation they have set in motion. The safety net of clinics and the emergency rooms (especially those hospitals that were subsidized through the Disproportionate Share Hospital payments to provide care for the uninsured) are certain to be stretched thinner and people in our States will suffer due to this colossal governmental feat of willful inaction."  - Sharon Lee, MD 

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