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Helen Smith

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November 11, 2011 - 2:40 pm

Today, I have seen several news stories about cuts in mental health. On CBS news, there is a slide show with the top 15 states that have cut services from 2009 to 2012. The states range from Missouri and Idaho to Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. (I know, it’s not a state but it’s listed).

Then, I saw that our local mental health hospital, Lakeshore Mental Health Institute will shut down in June of 2012. One of the reasons? Patients do better in the community. Sure they do.

Finally, I saw that no psychologists or psychiatrists want to take Tricare, the insurance for military personnel and many soldiers and their families are having trouble getting services:

TRICARE’s psychological health benefit is “hindered by fragmented rules and policies, inadequate oversight and insufficient reimbursement,” the Defense Department’s mental health task force said last month after reviewing the military’s psychological care system.

Just wait until Obamacare kicks in, then no one will be able to get services. But at least people will feel good about themselves. I also want to point out that many times, people think that it was the Republicans closing the mental hospitals and putting people onto the streets. Nope, that trend started with Jack Kennedy:

Numerous social forces have led to a move for deinstitutionalisation. However, researchers generally speak of six main factors: criticisms of public mental hospitals, incorporation of mind-altering drugs in treatment, support from President Kennedy for federal policy changes in the treatment for those with mental illnesses, shifts to community based care, changes in public opinion of those with mental disabilities, and individual state’s desire to reduce cost of mental hospitals.[1]

Now, many of those people who were in hospitals are in our jails and prisons. Is that an improvement?

Nicholas Cummings in the book Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well Intentioned Path to Harm discusses the problems that mental health professionals have had over the years. One is that they are too political and because of that (in my opinion), there is no respect for my field any longer. It could be that the public sees us as a bunch of quacks. However, throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn’t the answer. There are many people out there who are hurting and many of them do get help. Indeed, in my career, I saw people in mental institutes who saw the place as their home and did not want to leave.

Anyway, I guess when times are tough, mental health is the first to go. What do you think? Is this good, bad or are you neutral on this trend?

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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