Sure, Obamacare was supposed to raise the level of care for mental health to the level of physical health. Sure, President Obama declared a $500 million increase in federal spending for mental health issues. And……..? That equals $1.56 per capita. The states are decreasing their spending on mental health faster than that every year.
Those who venerate Ronald Reagan’s presidency may not have noticed that, once he converted federal health care into block grants to the states, the spending and resources for mental health collapsed to a feeble level. As the mental health facilities closed, the new prisons opened, and the homeless population mushroomed. Some experts estimate that 29% of the homeless have severe mental illness. Department of Justice studies show that 45-65% of local, state, and federal prisoners have severe mental illness; about 1/3 receive treatment. In other words, the justice system is in charge of mental health care in America. A police officer is the most likely person to interact with the seriously disturbed citizen on our streets. Then the most likely outcome would be to be incarcerated in a de facto asylum, or relegated to the streets.
I do not have the answers, but denial will not make things better. Maybe it would better to convert our prisons into hospitals, and our prison guards into psychiatric nurses. The last figure I heard was about $39,000 per inmate per year (about $107/day) for incarceration. Then most of those released have not been treated for mental illnesses. What do you think the chances are that they will have other episodes that might put them back in prison?
No one can guarantee that treatment would reduce recidivism; no statistics exist to test that theory. All I know is that people I know do very well, when they take their meds.
So, here is the question every candidate for federal office: “It seems that all the candidates agree that mental illness has played a prominent role in the mass shootings around the US. How well do you think the federal and state governments are managing mental healthcare in prisons, among the homeless, and the public? What do you think they should do to really meet the needs?”