In his March 28th letter, Rev. Miskimen made some excellent points. I would go further and say that we should consider enhanced procedures to address the mental health problem in this country.
In the early seventies, I was in law enforcement. On a number of occasions, I dealt with individuals who had attempted to harm themselves or others and were obviously not right. I took the individuals to the local state hospital instead of jail, wrote up details of their actions and words and turned them over for evaluation. On-duty psychiatrists would have five days to assess them and determine what level of help they might need. A few years later, the laws changed and police officers were stripped of that power.
After the law change, jail was the only option for some offenders with obvious mental problems. Things got worse, as mentioned by Rev. Miskimen. Congress passed "feel good" laws increasing offender rights at the cost of safety for all. Many were released to the streets and some institutions eventually shut down. Some highway bridge rails were protected with barriers to limit the suicides of ex-patients, which seemed to happen every week. Individuals appeared on the streets and in neighborhoods acting strangely and even undressing in public.
I recall talking to some of the patients that I had encountered who told me that they were having difficulty dealing with things outside the protective walls of the institutions. Many were hungry and dirty, and I felt sorry for them. Mental health care is an expensive proposition, especially state-run, but I believe that it is an important service that needs to be re-instituted for the care of those in need and the protection of the general population. Many of the mentally ill need a place that can meet their needs, keep them safe and teach them to survive. I'm not talking about locking them away unless, of course, they are among the criminally insane. Many cannot function on their own and need special care, not jail. There is now, and always has been, a case for institutionalizing those with serious mental deficiencies.
Bella VistaEditorial on 04/04/2018
Print Headline: Care for mental health deficiencies, not jail