Dear next President,
With violence and mass shootings on the rise in America, funding, treatment and facilities for severely affected mental health patients should also be increasing. However deinstitutionalizing, and severe funding cuts, are plaguing our country.
Deinstitutionalizing, the closing of state run asylums, has been going on in America since the 1950s. This has harmed our country more than one would believe. First, the government's closing of institutions, mental health facilities and mental hospitals has resulted in a rise in Mentally unstable people on the streets. When the patients with severe mental illness, at risk of an outburst who were in these facilities, were put on the streets, it increased the violence both on the streets and in the communities. Kimberly Amadeo describes this with her research when she says “About 200,000 of those who suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are homeless. That's about 1/3 of the total homeless population).” The mentally ill people who were violent in the community were then put into prison. “More than 300,000 are in jails and prisons. This means 16% of all inmates are severely mentally ill. There are about 100,000 psychiatric beds in both public and private hospitals. That means there are more than three times as many seriously mentally ill people in jails and prisons than in hospitals.” Together this has combined in a negative way to increase the numbers of homeless people and inmates with a mental illness that is not being treated correctly.
Many opposers of institutionalizing, claim that putting mentally ill patients into community settings would be the way to fix the problem. Head of mental health services in fairfax county virginia, George Braunstein says “we also have to look at all the other alternatives and grow those as well. We have crisis stabilization services, we have partial hospital programs, we have mobile crisis teams. We train the police in crisis intervention training, which is very important. And there are other kinds of programs that could be available along that continuum that need to be in place as well because we have to be careful not to try to look at this over simplistically.” His says they should be put into a community setting, but this is really a defence, outlining the precautions that they have. He is saying, that he himself knows it's dangerous, and has ways to protect against an outburst. This however is wrong, because they should protect against an outbreak, not prepare for one to happen. Furthermore, Dr. John A. Talbott, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said, ''The psychiatrists involved in the policy making at that time certainly oversold community treatment, and our credibility today is probably damaged because of it.'' He said the policies ''were based partly on wishful thinking, partly on the enormousness of the problem and the lack of a silver bullet to resolve it, then as now.'' He is saying that the Psychiatrists knew that the previous facilities were not perfect so they put too much emphasis on building the patients in the community, at the time.
With 5.6% of the National Health Care spending going to mental health what little money is spent towards Mental Health care goes to prescription drugs and outpatient treatment. This type of treatment results in what Curtis Flory described as the revolving-door syndrome. The revolving-door syndrome is when a patient going to hospitals is then released into the real-world, later determined unstable, only to find themselves back in the hospital. This syndrome is caused because the majority of mental health patients do not have a family or a good stable living condition such that an institution could offer. The truth of the matter is that severely unstable patients, will struggle to achieve a normal life with simply drugs, and instead need to be helped with controlled professionals in a controlled environment.
In the end the mental health issue in America is growing. Directing funds towards creating well run, safe, inviting facilities, would fix many of the problems we have in this country. By adding institutions, we would decrease violence across the board. It would also decrease the amount of homeless people, and the amount of people in prisons. A change is needed, and re institutionalizing is definitely a good way to get there.