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Mentally Ill Missourians May Be Unable to Get Their Medication

March 06, 2002
By: Kathryn Handley
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -Karren Jones, 56, refers to herself as "we." She said she can usually tell when another personality is out because of the time loss. "You look at the clock at 8 o'clock in the morning, look again it's 5 p.m. and you don't know what you've done all day," she said.

Jones says she suffers from Dissassociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). She said she has 18 personalities, ranging from a baby to age 27.

Jones said she would no longer be able to afford her medication, which on some months runs as high as $2000, if changes in the state Medicaid policy under Gov. Bob Holden's budget cuts were approved.

The current system allows people like Jones, whose income at $724 a month from Social Security Disability, is higher than the program limit, to participate in a spend-down program. People with spend-down plans must pay the difference between their income and the maximum income allowed to qualify for Medicaid themselves, thus "spending-down" their income to the qualifying level. The rest of their medical expenses are covered by Medicaid.

Gov. Holden's plan would save $20.6 million by requiring spend-down participants to pay their spend-down amount even if the total expenses exceeded their quarterly spend-down total. Jones said the new policy would mean that she and many others would no longer be able to afford their medication.

Jones medications include mood stabilizers, seizure medications and anti-psychcotics. She said if she stopped taking her meds, she wouldn't be able to drive, live alone or take care of herself.

"I'd probably wind up back in the hospital, which is the last thing I want to do," she said.

Jones' most recent hospitalization was last November. She stayed in St. Mary's psychiatric unit for 12 days due to an emotional breakdown.

Jones said she was first diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder eight years ago. She sees a therapist for an hour and a half twice a week for talk therapy and visits a psychiatrist once every two weeks.

Jones said her personalities are not all female and not all nice. She said many are children and most have names. But The Cutter, as she calls him, has neither name nor age. "He's grown with me," she said.

Jones said she doesn't like The Cutter and tries to stay away from him. She lifted up her sleve showing scars from multiple slashes.

"If everything's chaotic, he'll actually hurt me," she said. "It's a way of taking mental hurt and changing it into physical hurt."

But not all of Jones' personalities are self-destructive. "Some are better writers, some are better at math, some paint, draw, make hand crafts," she said. "They're as different as night and day."

Jones' mental illness also causes her to hallucinate. She compared the phenomenon to the scene in "The Wizard of Oz" when the movie changes from black and white into color.

"The colors are vibrant, the smells are vibrant, the sky is always shining, there are birds for you to watch," she said. "It's a daydream with a purpose."

Jones has been volunteering with the Jefferson City chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill for three years. Last year, she received NAMI volunteer of the year award when she was in the hospital.