"More Than Just Musing" #2
The two major issues involving gun violence are reasonable gun laws and mental health. To take NRA out of the picture requires defunding its lobby - MAJOR CAMPAIGN REFORM. To resolve the mental health issue will take massive funding for research, medication, some sort of out-patient supervised care, and institutionalized care that is more than warehousing. Unfortunately, with the exception of the immediate family and a small segment of the medical and social services communities, those with mental health issues have no lobby. So, it will take dedicated and conscientious legislators who will put their country first, their constituents second, and their tribe never.
Rather than treating "our" citizens who have serious mental health problems and/or mental health problems, we handle the issues by ignoring or hiding them.
SMHP = a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or a disorder and work impairment, or a disorder and report being suicidal) resulting in a serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities
About 4% (11.2 million) of the US population is seriously mentally ill (SMHP).
MHP = phobias, mood, anxiety, eating, impulse control, substance use, adjustment disorders.
The general public is indifferent to the problem unless it intrudes on family or friends. Then it falls upon the family with meager help from social services and the medical community. As a result, assistance is only temporary: inpatient and outpatient treatment is misunderstood and underfunded. If their actions rise to criminal behavior, we incarcerate them. If not, we ignore them until they blight our landscape. When the encampment draws enough attention, we then move them from one highway underpass to another.
In 2015, research indicated that over half a million people are homeless each night of which 25% are seriously mentally ill and 45% have mental health issues. What would the homeless situation look like if we were to develop and fund programs that treat "our" mentally ill. It might reduce crime, clean up blighted neighborhoods, reduce emergency room visits, grant some relief to local law enforcement agencies, and reduce prison population. It might even be cheaper.
In 1950, over 550,000 of the seriously mentally ill were hospitalized. The number dropped to 70,000 in 2012. In those sixty years we did not cure them. Over the years we turned them loose to live lives of despair, alone or in the care of their ill-prepared families and communities. Or, to eventually be incarcerated. In 1950, our prison system housed 178,000 of the seriously mentally ill. The number rose to 356,000 in 2014.
Today we have over 2.3 million in our jails and prisons. Studies show that 15% to 20% (somewhere around 400,000) are seriously mentally ill. The nationwide average costs to house an inmate is $31,000 (Vera Institute) but in some states it is $60,000. Would you care to guess on the recidivism rate of this population?
It is complicate but deserving our attention. Nothing but the grace of God prevents this intrusion in our lives. Out of sight should not be out of mind. We, the fortunate, are obligated to protect and provide for the mentally ill and their victims.
If we send the right people to Washington, clear the way so they can follow their conscience, and hold them responsible at the ballot box, we will get a grip on this issue and all our other issues - health care, prescription drugs, jobs, environment, immigration, guns, housing, wage/wealth gap, deficits, national debt.
The 28th Amendment to our Constitution is a step towards sending, clearing, and holding.