Cook County Jail in Illinois, Los Angeles County Corrections Facility and Rikers Island in New York are the three main providers from which most of the nation receives mental health treatment.
USA Today analyzed the Community Mental Health Act, the last peace of legislation signed by President John F. Kennedy. The act was “aimed to build mental health centers accessible to all Americans so that those with mental illnesses could be treated while working and living at home, rather than being kept in neglectful and often abusive state institutions…”
The goal was to build 1,500 centers and cut the size of those living in state mental hospitals–at the time more than half a million– by half. Addressing Congress about the legislation, Kennedy called it a “bold new approach” and stressed the importance of local communities taking care of its own and help them discover “a useful place in society.” But, as the report highlights, Kennedy’s goal was never realized as only half the centers were built and none were fully funded.
President Jimmy Carter tried to address the crisis during his term, signing the Mental Health Systems Act, one that would continue federal community mental health programs.
Carter’s act had little impact once Ronald Reagan took office. While serving as California’s governor, he deinstitutionalized the state, leaving those suffering from mental illness homeless. Once he became president, he made that strategy a national practice.
The nation, especially low-income people of color is suffering from a lack of resources dedicated to treating the mentally ill.
What can we do to solve this issue?
Are lawmakers not taking mental illness seriously?
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