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Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill

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How many times in history have zealous reformers gone too far, with the result that the reforms are as bad or worse than the problems they were intended to fix?  Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill is a prime example.  James Panero has this article in the City Journal.

The connection between mental illness and crime would come as no surprise to law enforcement professionals. Since deinstitutionalization, police and sheriffs' departments have reported an overwhelming increase in mental illness-related calls, a trend that continues today. A 2011 survey of 2,400 law enforcement officials reported that responding to these calls had become "a major consumer of law enforcement resources nationally." A TAC study in 2010 found that there were now "three times more seriously mentally ill persons in jails and prisons than in hospitals." Many county sheriffs' associations estimate that over a quarter of their jail population is mentally ill. The Los Angeles County Jail has become the largest de facto inpatient psychiatric facility in the United States, says Torrey; New York's Rikers Island Prison Complex is the second-largest.

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I volunteered at the Buffalo State Asylum during my college years (pictured in the story). It always struck me as tragic that we had so few beds "available" in such a large facility. Abolishing the IMD exclusion would be a first good step towards bring back the asylums.

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