Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Guns and the Mental Health System that Jack Built

Following the recent Santa Barbara shooting rampage, many seem outraged that someone so mentally unstable could be able to buy a gun. In fact, the police visited his apartment over issues that could possibly be related to mental illness but did nothing about it.  That's because, in this country, someone must commit an actual crime in order to be held for mental observation. It wasn't always this way.

Prior to 1963, anyone suspected of having serious mental health issues could be held for observation against their will.  If found to be dangerous to either themselves or others, they would be institutionalized at any one of the numerous state-run mental facilities across the country.  Now with institutionalization, there were abuses.  Some people were improperly diagnosed and falsely held.  Others, while being treated, suffered physical abuse from hospital staff.  Then all those abuses were sensationalized in news stories, films, and documentaries.  So, in 1955, the Democrat-led Congress commissioned a study of  mental health treatment.  In 1961, the results of that study and recommendation's were submitted to both Congress and the then-President Jack Kennedy.  Just like ObamaCare, the recommendation was that the current system of treating mental illness should be scrapped and replaced with a Federally-mandated system. So, Kennedy, as part of his New Frontier initiative, urged his fellow Democrats, who controlled both Houses of Congress, to pass into law the Community Mental Health Act (CMHA).  The CMHA was ultimately passed and signed into law by  Kennedy in 1963.

What this law did was to completely change how the severely mentally ill were treated. First of all, it was supposed to create numerous Community Mental Health Centers so that patients could live and work in their communities while getting care at one of these centers.  Secondly, no longer could anyone be mandatorily institutionalized unless it was proven that they had actually done harm to themselves or someone else.

As a result of this law, 90% of all the existing state-run mental facilities were shuttered.  As for the Community Centers, only about 50% were built and, of those, many were severely understaffed; all for lack of Federal funding.  But, the biggest problem with the concept of community centers is the fact that many,  mental patients don't think their ill.  As a consequence, they won't voluntarily seek help or take medication.  That is one reason why we have so many homeless people living on our city streets.

So, when you hear Democrats calling for better mental health screening for people seeking to buy guns, they have only themselves to blame for the lack of that screening.  The Santa Barbara shooter definitely had mental issues because, as reported, he was being treated by multiple therapists for many years. So, somehow saying that our nation's police should have better recognized the problem and done something about it is simply a "cop" out.  However, if it was pre-1963, he probably would have been institutionalized; or, at least, categorized as someone who was dangerous to himself and others, and therefore not able to buy a gun.

This situation proves, just like ObamaCare, that the Federal government has no place being involved in healthcare.

After Santa Barbara Killings, Questions About Police Dealing With Mental Health Issues:

Community Mental Health Act of 1963:

"He was being treated by multiple therapists, according to the lawyer, and had been diagnosed as “a high-functioning patient with Asperger syndrome.”:

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