Franklin James Cook

IN-DEPTH: Analysis Indicts U.S. Mental Health Care

In In-Depth, Mental Illness on November 23, 2008 at 9:34 am

Marcia Meier

Marcia Meier

The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy features a four-part series by Marcia Meier about mental health care in the United States.

In Part I , “America’s Mental Health (Care) Is Getting Worse,” Meier issues an indictment of and a warning about the U.S. mental helath care system.

Even with all of today’s medical advances, recognizing, diagnosing and treating the severely mentally ill in this country takes an average of 10 years, experts say … Add to that lack of funding for adequate care and treatment of the mentally ill, nearly a quarter of whom end up in the criminal justice system, and you have a recipe for disaster.

In Part II, “Is Criminalizing Mental Health Wise Policy?” she raises criticism about the treatment of the mentally who are imprisoned in America.

The Treatment Advocacy Center … said in an April 2007 briefing paper … “The nation’s jail and prisons have become, de facto, the nation’s largest psychiatric hospitals. There are now more severely mentally ill individuals in the Los Angeles County Jail, Chicago’s Cook County Jail, or New York’s Riker’s Island Jail than there are in any single psychiatric hospital in the nation.”

In Part III, “Recovery Model Shows Promise in Helping Mentally Ill,” Meier gives several examples of community-based mental health programs that appear to be working.

Kalamazoo’s [Assertive Community Treatment] program is one of hundreds around the country helping the mentally ill live successfully on their own, hold jobs, and contribute to their communities. Michigan has more than 100 ACT teams alone, and such teams are in place in 34 other states. The model saves money and substantially reduces the number of days clients spend in hospitals compared with other outpatient treatment models.

In Part IV, “Mental Illness Champions Found Down Under,” she assesses the National Action Plan on Mental Health, through which Australia is investing $5 billion to improve services to the mentally ill.

“While most initiatives represent additional commitments to expand ongoing programs, many are new and take the delivery of services for people with mental illness into areas beyond the boundaries of traditional health care,” a February 2008 progress report notes. “Key human service programs operating outside the system that have major responsibilities under the plan include housing, employment, education and correctional services.”

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