Dantia MacDonald, 40, has anosognosia.
“It means I don’t have insight into my illness,” she said. “I can be having delusions that are really terrible and fantastical, but I’ll refuse any and all treatment because I don’t think I’m sick. I think the delusions are 100 percent real.”
MacDonald, who lives in Manhattan, said she was diagnosed with schizoaffective bipolar disorder while studying overseas in 2007.
“I had to move to Kansas to be with family,” she said.
In 2013, she was twice a patient at Osawatomie State Hospital. She also spent a day in jail.
“I’ve done some things that are deeply embarrassing to me now,” MacDonald said. “I once was screaming in Hy-Vee. I didn’t come out of my house for 10 days because I thought the CIA was after me. I thought my doctors were going to torture me.”
Her day in jail, she said, was a consequence of her “screaming about the CIA in a bar.”
MacDonald said she’s willing to speak publicly about her illness now because she’s stable — “as long as I’m taking my medications” — and because she wants to express her support for a soon-to-be-introduced bill that would let Kansas communities open “receiving centers” allowed to hold people who appear to be seriously mentally ill for up to 72 hours if they are thought to be in crises.
Under current law, these would-be patients cannot be held for more than 24 hours, or 48 hours on a weekend, without first being taken to court and having a judge decide whether they pose a danger to themselves or others.
“I’ve done the state hospital tour. I know what that’s like,” she said. “It’s something that really should be avoided.”
“I have friends who are wandering around psychotic a lot. They need treatment. To me, 72 hours is worth it. I think we’d be helping a lot more people than we’d end up hurting.”- Charlie Ross, 65, of Lawrence who was a patient at Osawatomie State Hospital for eight days in 2005
MacDonald said she would have fared much better in her recovery if she had been taken to a secure facility and forced to take her medication.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to go because I was too sick to be making those kinds of decisions,” MacDonald said. “But now, looking back on it, I’d much rather have gone somewhere like that for three days than having to go to Osawatomie.”
Under the current law, MacDonald said, too many people with mental illnesses are ending up in jail because they’re in crisis and the courts have nowhere else to send them.
“That’s a travesty,” said MacDonald, who’s now a grant writer for Morning Star, a Manhattan-based day program for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses. She’s also a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Kansas governing board.
Charlie Ross, 65, was a patient at Osawatomie State Hospital for eight days in 2005. He also supports the proposal to create receiving centers for involuntary patients.
“I have friends who are wandering around psychotic a lot,” said Ross, who lives in Lawrence. “They need treatment. To me, 72 hours is worth it. I think we’d be helping a lot more people than we’d end up hurting.”
Ross remembers when the state officials shuttered the state mental health hospital in Topeka in 1997.
“The logic behind that was that you wouldn’t have to go there because the services would be available in the community,” he said. “But that hasn’t happened. What they’re talking about now would be a step in that direction.”