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Déjà vu – Monday Musing, June 13, 2022

Dear Church,

Déjà vu – a French word expressing the feeling that one has lived through the present situation before. While some want to associate déjà vu in a paranormal context, I see it as a “Groundhog Day moment” – events that are continually repeated. In the Sunday edition of the Cape Cod Times (CCT), the front page had this headline: “Stuck in the wrong spot: More psych patients at acute care hospitals.” The article noted that the Cape’s acute care hospitals are facing a record number of patients being “boarded” in the emergency department while they await placement in psychiatric hospitals. This article jumped out at me because I lived this reality in 2006.

Prior to my serving in ministry full time, I worked as a social worker for the State of Maine. I held various positions of responsibility, including working in an acute psychiatric hospital. I was promoted through the ranks, attaining a management position overseeing all outpatient adult mental health services for two-thirds of the State. I administered the contracts of private agencies who provided the bulk of mental health treatment for those requiring services. CCT’s reporting of patients “stuck” in the ED was a near daily occurrence in my role as the Region III Adult Mental Health Team Leader. I was the one who was called whenever a mental health consumer was trapped in the ED needing placement. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, I was on call to “solve” the problem.

So yesterday’s CCT article brought me back to 2008 (when I left the position to go into ministry full time). Déjà vu – nothing has changed! People in mental and behavioral crisis are still unable to access the services they need, so they are kept in the ED because there is no room for them elsewhere. People with mental illness don’t want to be sick, and an ED is not the service they need. The Psalmist David writes, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (13:1-2). Psalm 13 is a typical lament – the sufferer addresses God, states the complaint, expresses trust in God’s help, asks God for help in this situation, and repeats confidence in God’s help. David frequently lamented that God was slow to act on his behalf. Déjà vu says it all.

When our circumstances are such that the odds are against us, we may be tempted to think that God has abandoned us. But David reminds us that the opposite is true. When everything seems to go wrong, God stays with us and protects us. God’s divine presence is right beside us. I know first-hand that there are a host of angels who work in hospital emergency departments. While regulations mandate a safe discharge plan for all patients, the loving care that nurses and doctors provide to those who are stuck in the ED is second to none.

Yesterday it was announced that the U.S. Senate had reached a framework agreement on new gun legislation that will increase needed mental health resources. We will have to see whether this will end a national déjà vu on the lack of sufficient mental health resources. David concludes his Psalm, “But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (13:5-6). May these words give you comfort the next time you are stuck. See you in church!




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