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Why We Must Reclassify Schizophrenia Spectrum as a Neurological Brain Illness

The barbaric abuse and discrimination thrust upon individuals who suffer a neurological brain illness is horrific. We must start treating our loved ones, neighbors, and colleagues with schizophrenia appropriately, as we do for those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, we should reclassify schizophrenia spectrum brain illnesses as neurological brain illnesses, and emphasize the fact that schizophrenia spectrum illnesses are childhood brain illnesses that cause progressive brain changes and require early treatment.

Costs of schizophrenia

Individuals with schizophrenia die on average 28.5 years sooner than other Americans. Sadly, 10 percent of this is due to suicide. Whether patients receive timely, appropriate treatment has a great impact. Not regularly taking antipsychotic medications is associated with a 12-fold increase in the risk of death and 37-fold increase in death by suicide. Tragically, 40 percent or more of individuals with schizophrenia are untreated. Many of the homeless population have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, with higher rates in younger persons (13 percent for 18–30-year-olds and 21 percent for 31–40-year-olds).

There are staggering costs associated with schizophrenia, estimated in excess of $375 billion, which is disproportionately high relative to other chronic health conditions. This figure reflects both direct health care costs as well as indirect costs of lost productivity, criminal justice involvement, social service needs, and other factors beyond health care. 

Reclassifying schizophrenia

Including schizophrenia as a neurological disease will: 

  • Provide commensurate research and treatment with increased funding.
  • Align with HIPAA communications and compliance experienced by patients and families affected by other neurological illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s.
  • Provide beds instead of incarceration or homelessness by circumventing the Institutions of Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion.  
  • Provide increased access to appropriate treatment by a comprehensive, integrated team including psychiatrists, neurologists, and other providers. 
  • Eliminate criminalizing people with a brain illness. 
  • Utilize informed consent based on neurological symptoms.  
  • Eliminate discrimination.
  • Provide dignity, respect, and treatment as we do for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. 

Our vision is that every person living with a schizophrenia-related brain illness receives respect, appropriate treatment and an opportunity to live a meaningful and satisfying life in a compassionate community free of discrimination.  Imagine what a difference it will make for families who will receive lifesaving care for their loved one. This will also enable appropriate insurance coverage and eliminate criminalization and discrimination of the millions affected. We are committed to seeing this accomplished. 

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