Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cost Of Hoarding

One researcher estimates hoarding is the most costly mental illness to treat in the U.S. That's in part because communities don't know the best way to help people who stockpile rooms of trash, debris, food, and even animals.

Leaders in one local county are trying to tackle the problem.

One University of Kansas researcher said people who hoard are often passed from one agency to another because communities don't have protocols in place to help.

Currently, both the KU and leaders in Wyandotte County are working to change that in an effort to save everyone time and money.

When it comes to zeroing in on the cleanup cost of hoarding, one can simply take a look at the laptop of restoration specialist Steven Martuch. From mounds of trash to an entire bathtub filled with human feces, he's been inside some of the worst hoarding locations all over the country.

"Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nevada, Kansas Nebraska, we've been, pretty much. All we need to do is hit Washington, and we'll have been in every corner of the country," Martuch said.Martuch works for a company that has realized hoarding cleanup is big business."$10,000, on a whole, would very, very easily sum it up," Martuch said. "Like I said, we've seen some that are $20,000, $30,000, $40,000."

Martuch is quick to point out that $10,000 only covers the cost of of the cleanup. The real cost, he said, is much higher, and Wyandotte County leaders said they are very much aware of those costs.

Wyandotte County now has a Hoarding Coalition. It's one of only a handful around the country and Rik Van Dyke is the chairman of the Wyandotte County Hoarding Coalition.

"We realized one agency can't do it," Van Dyke said. "Code can't do it by themselves. We can't do it by ourselves. It takes the whole community to really get involved."

Julie Sergeant, with KU's School of Social Welfare, is studying whether hoarding coalitions, like the one in Wyandotte County, can make a difference in cutting down costs."

I think the next step is to really look over the long term at the outcomes of the work that these hoarding coalitions do," Sergeant said.Sergeant said cities and counties need to get a handle on the disorder because studies estimate hoarders make up 6 percent of any region's population. In Wyandotte County, with a population of around 155,000, the cleanup costs could potentially run taxpayers more than $93 million..." More & video

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