50 Years After the Community Mental Health Act, the Best Reporting on Mental Health Care Today

50 Years After the Community Mental Health Act, the Best Reporting on Mental Health Care Today

How far have we come? Journalists take a hard look at our nation’s system of caring for the mentally ill.

President John F. Kennedy signs the Community Mental Health Act into law on Oct. 31, 1963. (Bill Allen/AP Photo)

    by Christie Thompson ProPublica,  Nov. 5, 2013, 10:57 a.m.

Fifty years ago last week, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act. The law signaled a shift in thinking about how we care for the mentally ill: instead of confining them into institutions, the act was supposed to create community mental health centers to provide support.

But studies on the prevalence of mental illness among inmates [1] and the homeless [2] (PDF) show many patients are ending up on the street or in jail, instead of served by the treatment centers envisioned in the law. The homes that do exist are often subject to loose laws and regulations, leaving already fragile patients vulnerable to further abuse and neglect.

How far have we come? Here are some important reads on the state of mental health care today. Additions? Tweet them with the hashtag #MuckReads, or leave them in the comments below.

Milwaukee County mental health system traps patients in cycle of emergency care [3], Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 2013

In Wisconsin, psychiatric patients are often put through a revolving door of treatment: Experience a breakdown. Get arrested and brought to the emergency ward. Be released just a few days later. Repeat. Overall, “one of every three persons treated at the [psychiatric] emergency room returns within 90 days.”

Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin. [4], Mother Jones, May 2013

When a parent is faced with an ill, potentially violent child, where can they turn? Journalist Mac McClelland details how community outreach in the 1970s and 1980s allowed her aunt to stay “independent until the very end.” Thirty-four years and billions of dollars in mental health cutbacks [5] later, her cousin’s battle with schizophrenia came to a much more tragic conclusion.

Nevada buses hundreds of mentally ill patients to cities around country [6], Sacramento Bee, April 2013

Psychiatric patient James Flavy Coy Brown got off a bus in Sacramento [7] with no money, no medication, and no idea why he was there. He’d been sent to the California capital from a hospital in Las Vegas, who had regularly been discharging patients and busing them across the country. Patients are only supposed to be sent to other states when there’s a clear plan for their care. But stories like Brown’s show how many patients fall through the cracks….

PLEASE; READ WHOLE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.propublica.org/article/50-years-after-the-community-health-act-the-best-reporting-on-mental-health?utm_source=et&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter

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