A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
The definition of "deinstitutionalization" is simple. It is taking mentally ill patients from mental institutions and placing them on your street corner and/or in local jails.
Ever wondered where all those mentally ill "homeless" people came from? Blame it on "deinstitutionalization."
Now, I realize there are millions of Americans who see or hear the word "deinstitutionalization" and have no clue what it means nor to what it is referring.
So let's see if we can shed a little light on it.
First we must understand the Law of Unintended Consequences. "The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is this: that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or
unintended." SOURCE: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/UnintendedConsequences.html
So what makes the law of unintended consequences work? Well, the "Wise Geek" says the following: "The two top reasons why the law of unintended consequences works, according to Merton, is that the framers of a social change are either ignorant of possible far reaching effects of the law or make errors when they develop a change that don’t have the effects they desired. Other reasons why we sometimes see changes occur after any type of event, new scientific development, or treaty is passed may have to do with “self interest,” so much so that a person who desperately wants to see a change doesn’t evaluate the ultimate effects of that change." SOURCE: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-law-of-unintended-consequences.htm
Deinstitutionalization is a clear result of the law of unintended consequences. They go together like bread and butter.
The idea behind deinstitutionalization was this -- that patients fare much better when they are looked after in a supportive and loving environment than when they are placed in a human warehouse, as mental institutions were sometimes referred to in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
So, America closed down many of its mental institutions without making sure the community supports were in place ad ready to receive the former mental patients. As a result, the mentally ill wound up on our streets, in our jails, and in unprepared homes where they created much discord and, in some cases, even committed heinous crimes that tore those families apart.
To understand what happened and the grievous error our government made by releasing much of the country's mentally ill onto society, we have to go back to the 1960's. (Surprise! Surprise!) Since, roughly, 1960 it has become almost impossible to hospitalize a person with a serious mental illness.
Deinstitutionalization is a clear case in which the "do-gooders" have managed to bollocks things up to a fair-the-well.
Civil Rights was the battle cry of the political left of the sixties and it was their actions at the time that led, eventually, to the mess we have now with the insane roaming the streets of America as "homeless" people. It was their actions that led to the courts placing a limit on involuntary institutionalization and on the courts setting minimum standards for care in institutions. Read more here: http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_the_Issue&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=137545
Unfortunately, as the mentally ill were invited OUT of the mental hospitals they found few services or support waiting for them outside. In many cases, it fell to their families to take care of them, most often, those families were not prepared and were overwhelmed. Far too many of the formerly institutionalized mentally ill eventually wound up on the streets of America as homeless people and/or in the nation's jails.
Clayton E. Cramer, in a piece entitled: ‘Deinstitutionalization’: Mass Murder and Untreated Madness, which was published at PJMedia says the following: "For those of you under 40 — it used to be startling indeed to see people begging in the streets or obviously insane in public. Homelessness and various forms of urban degradation were byproducts of deinstitutionalization." SOURCE: http://pjmedia.com/blog/deinstitutionalization-mass-murder-and-untreated-madness/
In Mr. Cramer's book: "My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill." Mr. Cramer says: "... for centuries the connection between mental illness and violence was considered sufficiently obvious that the legal system provided various ways to hospitalize the severely mentally ill when they first provided clear indications that they were a hazard to themselves or others. Only in the 1960s and 1970s did our society decide that this system was unfair. It then embarked on a policy of “deinstitutionalization.” The idea: standards for long-term, involuntary commitment of the mentally ill should be just a bit less demanding than the standards of proof for criminal conviction.
Unsurprisingly, emptying out the mental hospitals and making it difficult to hospitalize people with serious mental illness problems meant that society as a whole became a bit more like a low-grade mental hospital."
There is a compelling argument that those supporting gun control in America are missing the importance of treatment for our mentally ill. Consider the role of mental illness in all the recent mass shootings all across the country. "
Mr. Cramer says: "Supporters of gun control argue that we need stricter laws because ordinary, law-abiding people just “snap” and go on rampages. There are people who indeed snap and go on rampages (and not just with guns) — but they are seldom ordinary. Often, they are people with long histories of mental illness who in 1960 would have been hospitalized before they killed someone." SOURCE: http://pjmedia.com/blog/deinstitutionalization-mass-murder-and-untreated-madness/
Deinstitutionalization is not working. It is not going to work. It is far too late to even consider “fixing” it.
America needs Congress to step up on this problem and make the necessary changes to existing laws and/or pass new laws that will allow us to gather the mentally ill from our streets and prisons and from families that are at their wit’s end, and place them in institutions in which they will be cared for, and locked away from society -- for their sake AND for ours.
Deinstitutionalization was a "feel good" project. In action it has been worse than a train wreck.
When one considers all the harm to individuals, to families, and to the country as a whole, it is difficult to determine which is more insane – the patient, or the deinstitutionalization policy.
J. D. Longstreet
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