Doctor's In: The need for adequately funded state mental hospitals

We must revisit the reopening and adequate funding of our State Mental Hospitals and reception centers.

Over the years I have written several published editorials emphasizing the need to reopen and adequately fund our nation’s mental health hospitals. The deinstitutionalization of the seriously mentally ill began during the Reagan years and has been an abysmal failure. Deranged patients counted in the millions walk our streets today in need of medication, nutrition, and proper care.

Tens of thousands of families have found it difficult if not impossible to find adequate mental health programs to meet the needs of kin with significant mental health issues. Jail is not an option for the mentally ill.  Residential treatment in an appropriate facility is required.  Should the patient be released careful follow-up is essential. 

The primary reason for the deinstitutionalization, de-funding, and closure of mental health facilities relates to this nation's unwillingness to fund these essential services. The excuse was the mainstreaming of mental health's seriously ill. The truth relates too desired budget cuts both state and federal. Since the sixties we have witnessed too frequently the result of the unbalanced and untreated walking our streets in every community. No American can ignore the heartbreak and tragedy of the loss of life in a Connecticut elementary school.

I repeat my call for the adequate funding and reopening of State Mental Hospitals and State Reception Centers. Until this decision is made this nation will see such calamities repeated. I point the finger at the failure of political leadership at every level to protect the public from the dangerously mentally ill.  

All elected officials should ask themselves a simple question, “What have we saved in undermining our mental health system?”  What price can you put on the lives lost in these recurring senseless tragedies?  As for gun control and registration – that’s a subject for another day.

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Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH December 15, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Correction: It was during the Nixon years that the de-funding closed and eliminated many State Mental Institutions and State Reception Centers. The Community mental health centers were supposed to continue services to patients released from hospitals. Most of those patients were lost to follow-up and many ended up on the streets as homeless. Also, families had limited options for mentally ill loved ones. Much of the talk will be of gun control. I support it, but the real issue is the lack of effective mental health services and adequate confinement and treatment for the seriously disturbed. That's expensive - I am curious as to how much we will here from elected officials on the mental health issue.
Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH December 17, 2012 at 11:30 PM
To clarrify further. Governor Regan, California (prior to becomming President)predated deinstitutionalization by defunding California's Mental hospitals circa 1960 resulting in closures and loss of critical mental health services. Although the national efforts to dismantel the nations mental health support systems came later, the great communicator, Reagan, was the first to pursue this dangerous agenda.


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