These high-profile cases make the news because they involve mainstream people.
When you have a hostage situation in Cottonwood Heights or a bomber on the Trax
platform, you take notice.But violence is common among the homeless in the
slum areas. You glance at it on the back pages when you read of a stabbing or
someone getting an ear bitten off. No big deal.But committing them is
only part of the equation. Someone committed is likely to be sent to a nursing
home to live next to gramps. That makes no sense. Just another costly failure
of the village.
President Kennedy's stated purpose when he proposed moving the mentally ill
out of federal institutions was that they would go to neighborhood treatment
centers where they would be treated more humanely. During the next 15 years or
so, his proposal was followed up on and hordes of mentally ill were transferred
to local facilities. Unfortunately, for most of them that meant prisons,
homeless centers, back alleys, parks, and cemeteries. We need to
rethink how many of our "perpetrators" are, in fact, victims of our
neglect. Are local governments willing or able to treat the mentally ill? Does
the Affordable Care Act offer any potential solutions?They are
entitled to better care.
Kennedy's plan was a rush job. There weren't community mental health
centers, only a few plans. But the states were glad to empty the mental
hospitals and turn over the financial liability for them. It is the very
definition of unintended consequences.It isn't really about money.
We're using the nursing homes now. That's a pricey alternative.We need mental hospitals. Some bristle at that, thinking of the human
warehouses of the past. But we need inexpensive alternatives to the present
situation.My problem is trust. Government can't possibly do it
right. So who can?