Co-Morbidity

 

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In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king

According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (PDF | 3.4 MB) an estimated 43.6 million (18.1%) Americans ages 18 and up experienced some form of mental illness. In the past year, 20.2 million adults (8.4%) had a substance use disorder. Of these, 7.9 million people had both a mental disorder and substance use disorder, also known as co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.Various mental and substance use disorders have prevalence rates that differ by gender, age, race, and ethnicity. 

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Those are the American figures, now take a look at some British ones, in 2014/15 there were 8,149 hospital admissions of drug related mental health and behavioural disorders that’s 14% higher than the previous year. There were also 14,279 hospital admissions for poisoning as a consequence of drug use, that’s 57% up on 2003/4. 

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24% of those arrested by police for assault later tested positive for drugs, in 12% of those cases the drug of choice was cannabis. More British people than ever are taking drugs but to all intents and purposes we’re not addicted, even with a surge in drug abuse brought on by a recession, austerity and economic uncertainty. Despite this lack of addiction there’s been an increase in comorbidity ( mental illness coinciding with drug use), an increase in drug driving, and an increase in assaults (how many of those involved in the perpetration of knife & gun crime would have been found to have used drugs if they’d been caught at the scene?).

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There’s been an increase in parents attending their own children’s funerals, an increase in police attending teenage crimes scenes, an increase in community concerns about the increasingly violent ways in which teenage members of their communities are meeting their end. The only thing that hasn’t increased is governmental concern about what’s going on, the kind of concern that could lead to an increase not a decrease in policing numbers and police budgets. British police have form when it comes to targeting big time drug dealers and the havoc and mayhem they create in Britain’s cities. Out of control children (black and white) are running around with guns and knives and pockets stuffed full of cash and besides being bemused, the government has cut policing budgets time and again and chosen to do nothing.

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The stats on Cannabis farms make for astounding reading, that’s thousands of suburban terraced homes in which plants and not people are being housed. The police used to raid thousands of these properties a year, returning the homes to estate agents who could then arrange for them to be filled by real people with real housing needs. However, the number of cannabis farm raids has dropped, the reason? A cut in policing manpower and budgets.

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Tied to the issue of cannabis farms is modern slavery, the enslaving of homeless people for the sole purpose of cultivating the cannabis crop. According to Teresa May (she who has declared Eritrea a ‘safe haven’ for returning refugees) ‘Britain leads the world in its efforts to tackle modern slavery’ but not it would seem in eradicating homelessness or cannabis farming. 

Policing: ill Health versus Capability Dismissal

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As a Federation rep I have had the responsibility of representing and advising officers on ill health retirement and appeals processes. My usual advice to officers wanting to seek ill health retirement is this;

Your chances of success are low. Around about 25% presently. There is little point trying for an ill health retirement pension unless you have tried every possible treatment available for your condition, in order to be considered as permanently disabled,even if your own GP or Consultant hasn’t recommended or even offered the treatment. Because you can guarantee the SMP or Appeal board will deny you are permanently disabled without having tried it. 

Even having exhausted every possible pill, experimental therapy and ancient tribal medicine from the far reaches of Peru, your chances of being deemed as having a permanent disability and therefore eligible for ill health retirement, are still only as good as a flutter on a roulette wheel.

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Capability Dismissal is now being pitched as a tool that will be used on the ‘minority of officers’, to plug a gap that exists where officers are not eligible for ill health retirement. It is being claimed that only a mere fraction of disabled officers will be affected.

This I am sure, is said with absolute belief in this statement, however, unless the ill health pension implications above are fully understood, reviewed and rectified, this will absolutely not be the case. In fact, there is potential in the future for this to apply to the ‘vast majority’ of disabled officers.

If ill health retirement rates remain at approximately 25% success rate (PFEW estimations), the other 75% of officers who are unsuccessful will surely be walking the lonely trail into the deep dark depths of dismissal from the Police service. It is not inconceivable that 100% of those officers will be disabled.

Our focus must now turn to the second half of the Limited Duties regulations, Capability Dismissal.

This is where the real threat lies to Disabled Officers. At least with an ‘X factor’ pay reduction, ‘they’ only manage to chew off a small piece, but you still manage to get away to fight another day. You will still have a job. It may require some very tough lifestyle changes, but for most it will be achievable.

Capability Dismissal on the other hand would see you dismissed from your force on the grounds of your ‘capability’ to perform the role of the office of Constable, having not been eligible for ill health retirement.

If ill health retirement isn’t addressed soon, Capability dismissal won’t just chew a piece off, it will swallow you whole.

Extracted in part from a blog posted by the Disabled Police Association National Secretary

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