by Evander Lomke on
From the December 31, 2013, issue of National Review:
America’s mental-health system is a failure, as the massacres perpetrated by deranged individuals in Newtown, Aurora, and elsewhere have made tragically clear. While 10 million people in America suffer from serious mental illness—including 200,000 on our streets, and 300,000 in our prisons—the federal government has in recent decades placed a higher priority on treating those with mild problems than on the worst cases.
Representative Tim Murphy (R., Pa.), a psychologist, has introduced a bill that would finally begin to reverse this. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act would focus federal funding on serious mental illness, rather than spread it across milder ailments, and empower families to seek treatment for those who cannot make such decisions for themselves.
President Obama has boasted of allocating more funding for mental health; but spending more on a broken system, one in which Medicaid will not even pay for hospitalizing the mentally ill, will do little to fix the problem. Large parts of the federal government’s mental-health bureaucracy question whether serious mental illness is even an affliction that can be treated, instead of just a different way to order one’s mind. Deinstitutionalization and the rights revolution of the 1960s and 1970s distorted beyond recognition the federal government’s efforts to address mental health.
Representative Murphy’s bill would be a big step back in the right direction.