Fifty Years of Failing America’s Mentally Ill


In an article published in the February 4, 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal, E. Fuller Torrey explores fifty years of failure of the US government’s program originally envisioned by president John F. Kennedy in 1963 to fund community mental health centers or CMHCs.

Previously, public care for the mentally ill was the exclusive territory of the states, but this program in the closing of state hospitals, and stopped state funding of out-patient clinics.  After almost two decades, and billions of dollars being spent the number of patients in state hospitals dropped by about 75% while the federally funded CMHCs were taking care of people with milder mental problems than those of patients discharged from state mental hospitals.  Those discharged patients who were supposed to be the primary recipients of care through CMHCs made up only about 4-7% of total patient load.

During this time, the Medicaid and Medicare programs were created and changes were made to both the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs.  These programs were originally not intended to fund care for the mentally ill, but these changes resulted in the almost complete federal takeover of the mental illness treatment system at an annual cost of more then $140 billion.

Many individuals with severe mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia do not receive the treatment support they need.  Half of mentally ill individuals discharged from state hospitals, who have the most severs types of mental illness, such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder, are not doing well.

Even after the recent Newton tragedy, there is nothing in the federal government’s plans through 2014 that even mentions Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or outpatient care.

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