Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guns cheap, mental health expensive

By Frank Moraes 

I've already written about how I think the primary lesson of the many recent mass shootings is that we need to do something about the easy availability of guns. But I still think much more needs to be said about mental health and anyway, I'm not sure that I have a lot to add on the gun situation. Go watch Up with Chris Hayes.

When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he had a great idea to save the state money: close down most of the mental hospitals. This was a false economy, to say the least. I'm not sure what the correlation is exactly, but this decision happened shortly before California saw its ranks of homeless skyrocket.

This is not just a California problem, of course. Sy Mukherjee wrote an excellent article over at Think Progress yesterday, "It's Easier For Americans To Access Guns Than Mental Health Services." In it, he notes that for the poor, it is much cheaper to buy a gun than to buy mental health care. He has the data in the article. But I was really struck by this passage: 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that Connecticut's public mental health system currently provides coverage for less than one in five Connecticut residents with a serious mental health problem. The other four may not be able to afford to pay for those services on their own, particularly since mental health issues tend to disproportionately affect poor people.

Four out of five? That's amazing. But that's what our country has become. It is like the psychopaths have taken full charge of our policy. And now what we hear is that we can't do anything about the mental health system; we can't do anything about our gun situation; but we can militarize our schools.

We are a rich society that can afford to take care of our less fortunate. 

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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