Oh, right, the mental health industry

For a moment there, I’d forgotten I was dealing with the mental health people.

It’s time to call in the boy’s prescription, so I call the number for the office. “Why are you calling here?” the receptionist snaps. “We don’t do that at the satellite office.”

Well, this was the only number I was provided, I say.

You need this one, she says, and rattles it off. I dial that one and get a very nice voicemail message explaining exactly what information to leave so they can call in the prescription refill. I leave it all and ask for a callback to make sure I’ve done it correctly.

Imagine my surprise when they called back!

The woman was a joy to speak to, and quickly I learned why. Because the receptionist had given me the number for nephrology prescriptions, not neurology prescriptions. The nicest person I’ve spoken to in this war, and I’ll never speak with her again. She gave me a new number…

…where I get a rude voicemail outgoing message telling me that unless it’s between 8:30 and 8:37, I cannot call in to get a prescription refilled. Of course I am not allowed to leave a message like at the other office. The staffed line didn’t answer after fifty rings, so I decided to try during normal refill hours the next day.

Pause for an aside here: there are only two areas of medicine where I’m convinced the practitioners and the staff actively hate their clients. OB/GYN and mental health seem to breed that kind of loathing of the patients. Yes, I’ve met those who genuinely care. But they’re much rarer. OB nurses get away with active rudeness you never see on a surgical floor. OBs call it “standard of care” to perform procedures on clients not only without consent but over their objections. (Hence why I’m a midwife patient. They actually like women.) And we’re seeing firsthand that mental health people tend to be brusque and rude.

The next day, I got an actual person. She asked for the medical record number, the doctor’s name, and the drug name. Then she asked for the dosage. Well, blamed if I know: I can’t find the original prescription. She gets huffy. “Can you read it to me off the bottle?” No, I don’t have that here.

Does she need that? No. The entire prescription is in the computer. It’s not as if, had I asked for a five times stronger dosage, she would have blindly entered it and hit “send.” Then she says, “YOu need another appointment,” and transfers me.

So I make an appointment. My choices of appointment date were “Tomorrow” and “Late January.” I kid you not. I said, “There’s nothing in between?” No, nothing at all. So I took January. This appointment is a joke anyhow. “Does he still have Asperger’s?” the doctor will say while Kiddo#1 and Kiddo#3 destroy a tiny exam room, and I’ll tell him yes, and we’ll go home.

I asked the appointment person, “Is the prescription actually going to get called in?” She said she didn’t know but would transfer me back to prescriptions.

I got a different person. One who was, ah, well, confused. A little. “I just want to know,” I said, “if the person I spoke to before is going to call in the refill.”

This shouldn’t be tough, right? She went over it with me a few times before she asked me, “But is she going to refill it?”

Um, that’s what I asked you, right?

I opted for valor and waited a while, then called the pharmacy. It got called in. We’re safe.

At least until the prescription runs out.


  1. acollage

    Wow, sounds like you’re with an six-letter HMO that starts with the letter “k.” (And if not, they sound like twins!) What a hassle for you. I don’t understand how the medical profession can mess with prescriptions so much. I learned a few months ago that if a prescription is lost when the mail pharmacy’s package is lost in the mail, you could be in some serious trouble, as getting a new prescription would magically allow you to get ‘more’ than the one prescription, even if you aren’t responsible for the missing first one. Good luck!

  2. philangelus

    Nope, we haven’t even gotten into the morass of paying for all this stuff yet. The worst one, btw, is US Stealthcare, which did everything short of killing me on the way to the post office in order to prevent me from filing a claim. Fortunately, we don’t have them any longer.

    The big hurdle now is just FINDING mental healthcare and lining up providers. I had this conversation with a potential therapist:

    Dr: So, you’re looking for someone who takes your insurance?
    Me: I’m not really worried about that right now. We need to get him a therapist.
    Dr: Which insurance do you have?
    Me: Big Complicated Insurance Co.
    Dr: They’re pretty complicated.
    Me: What percentage do they normally pay?
    Dr: About 80%.
    Me: We’ll be able to afford it.
    Dr: Well, I don’t have any openings anyhow.
    Me: Then why are you talking about insurance with me?

    I mean really, if you have no opening, does it really matter who’s not paying for the appointment we can’t have?


  3. Cricket

    I think I’ll stick with the local pharmacy, even if it means I pay an extra fee each time for the privilege of them recognizing me. I miss our old doctor/pharmacist combo. He greeted us by name. I often heard him call to see if he could change something for price or interaction or availability. A pox on the HMOs that don’t allow this option.

    My current gripe is lab test results. They don’t call you with results unless there’s a problem. Several hundred tests a week, I can see their point. But, if they don’t get the results, either you didn’t bother to get the test or they’re lost. I’m always trying to think of better systems, but this one has me stumped. Dr. could keep a list of outstanding tests (carbon copy of test request, or computer equivalent), but what about “Come back in six months, have this test the week before,” or the patients who don’t bother having the test.
    That’s one reason I go annually — to confirm they got the results from last year’s boring tests.

    Does the double-checker at least do his job and ask if it’s working, and about side-effects?

  4. Cricket

    I usually tell them “If I don’t pay you out of my own pocket today, the college fund is useless.” Most of them agree. I’ll fill out the forms and get insurance to pay everything possible, but it’s usually after the fact. One therapist, to get the insurance we needed the team’s PhD to review the therapist’s work, at an additional $30/hr, to get $30/hr out of the insurance company, so no savings for us at all.

  5. Ivy

    For insurance, the best is Aetna. When I had them they were of the mindset that a doctor is a doctor is a doctor, and paid all but a nominal copay for any kind of doctor (psychologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, whatever). They also trusted a very basic amount of anatomic knowledge on the part of the patient (ie, that the patient can correctly identify things like their own eyes). That way, a patient with a problem with her eyes could go to the ophthalmologist and not have to go to the PCP, who would in turn say, “go see the ophthalmologist”. I don’t know if they still offer that, but they were the best I’ve ever had.

  6. redfear

    ouch! I feel your frustration. We go through similar things here. When my doseage was doubled on one mental health med and decreased on the other it was apparently beyond confusing for the other doctor and pharmacist involved. Mind you, although I have many years of college well behind me, I never graduated. Perhaps graduating and achieving higher education makes one more easily baffled and a whole lot grumpier.

  7. Similar Situation

    So tell me, do you think the medication is helping Kiddo#1?

    We are in a similar situation with our son @ 6, but has always avoided the medication route. Constantly working with behavioral specialists to conquer the situations.

  8. philangelus

    Is the medication helping? He would tell you yes. The medical industry would tell you no because he’s only been on it for a few days, but he keeps telling me about things he hasn’t done (ie, “I didn’t melt down when Kiddo#3 trashed my room”) and he’s right: he hasn’t.

    Placebo? Not sure. Asperger’s kids apparently also react much more to drugs.

    BTW, “Similar Situation,” I can see your email address (no one else can), and I think I may have gone to high school with you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Similar Situation

    You think or you know? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Similar Situation

    You think or you know? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    My next post was going to ask you if having seven guardian angels to manage was harder than just the one you had to deal with in high school…and did you ever figure out their names?

    Oh wait, I just asked. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. philangelus

    Hah! The count is seven total for the household. I’m not smart enough to deal with seven angels. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Your last name is pretty distinctive, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that there are two people using your name. It’s good to hear from you! I’d love to catch up, but that probably ought to be taken to email at a time when I don’t have a baby trying to hit all the keys on my laptop. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Similar Situation

    You now know where to find me.


  13. Cricket

    So glad to hear something’s helping! And placebo effect is just as much an effect as a chemical effect.

  14. philangelus

    While that’s true, you don’t have to actually put a drug into your system to get a placebo effect. ๐Ÿ˜‰ OTOH, he’s doing really well still. No side-effects and all the supposed pluses. Maybe the prozac committee needs to come photograph The Boy for their next ad campaign.