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JI7 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 01:19 AM
Original message
Ronald Reagan and mental health institutions
i want to ask especially those who were old enough and paid attention to what was going on during the reagan administration. i have heard things about how during reagan's presidency the patients at mental health places were released even though they had not improved and still needed some help. did this happen and why ?
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ComerPerro Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 01:24 AM
Response to Original message
1. They were released so they could vote for Reagan and Bush
Sorry, don't have a real answer. But I can kick this
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rudeboy666 Donating Member (959 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 01:34 AM
Response to Original message
2. actually
I know that there was(is?) a movement on the part of civil libertarians(ACLU,etc..) that wanted to halt the practice of institutionalizing people against their will. They felt that this practice was at odds with the concept of a free society. There comes a point were even a mentally ill person has a right to refuse treatment against his or her will.

Though I am pretty sure that the Reagan releses probably had something to do with budget cuts(I could be wrong).

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GoddessOfGuinness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 01:34 AM
Response to Original message
3. Funding for such institutions was drastically cut,
forcing administrators to release patients who shouldn't have been. The practice continues as people are admitted and space/staff/basic necessities are insufficient to accomodate them.

My mother was a psychiatric social worker during the Reagan years, and she wept over many a patient.
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JasonDeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 02:27 AM
Response to Original message
4. What she said.
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BrotherBuzz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 02:38 AM
Response to Original message
5. When Reagan was governor....
Edited on Thu Feb-26-04 02:40 AM by BrotherBuzz
He slashed and burned his way through California and one of those slashes was the cutback, and closures of a lot of the State hospitals. In essence, he created a lot of the homeless problems on the streets of San Francisco (well, other places too) when nonfunctioning? people were cut loose. I find it interesting that the people who complain the loudest about the homeless people are the ones who supported the cutbacks to the state health system in the first place.

I really don't know what he did to the mental health system during his presidency.
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Lindacooks Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 02:57 AM
Response to Original message
6. That asshole tried to decimate
most social programs, including slashing funding for researching diseases, INCLUDING Alzheimer's.

The fact that Reagan has Alzheimer's is simply the chickens coming home to roost.
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SoCalDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 03:09 AM
Response to Original message
7. Money... plain and simple..
State mental hospitals and mental health facilities were "losers" to the state.. People could not afford to hospitalize their family members and they were made wards of the state, so they were a financial drag..

Some were given lithium and other very powerful psychotropic drugs of the day, and they became very "mellow".. Naturally Reagan, thought.. "Hey they are "cured" and they cost us out they go "..

Once they were out, and no one made sure they took their meds, they quickly became ..homeless, jobless and still very mentally ill..

But the states saved a lot of money and therefore the national admin sent them less money..

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VOX Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 04:52 AM
Response to Reply #7
11. Excellent analysis, SoCalDem.
Right on the mark and tragic as all hell.
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Voltaire99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 04:29 AM
Response to Original message
8. Yes, and...
What the others have said is true. What happened next? The influx of the mentally ill onto urban streets produced a predictable backlash: "respectable" citizens complained about stinky crazies who, when not offending the well-dressed eye by rotting in plain view, had the temerity to badger hard-working self-made Republicans for handouts. Anti-panhandling ordinances and zero-tolerance policing became the rage. In some cases, these brutal measures boosted political careers (Rudy "round 'em up" Giuliani was one such) and sometimes they were enacted in concert with major corporations (Disney actually lobbied for anti-panhandling laws). Society's hatred of its weakest knew few bounds, and all this occured, not by accident, at a time when the mantra "greed is good" became the defining mark of the late-20th century American and her politicians. (Note: nor was the anti-homeless backlash solely GOP-driven policy. Inspect, for instance, the career of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.)

To learn more, go here:

Start your search in Harper's Magazine, the nation's oldest continually published mag and one of its best.
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Ysabel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 04:32 AM
Response to Original message
9. yes...
funding was cut, many workers at institutions and hospitals lost their jobs, many hospitals and mental health facilities closed completely, patients were released - funding was severely cut...
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tobius Donating Member (947 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 04:37 AM
Response to Original message
10. left "reformers" and right 'budget cutters"
came together and deinstitutionalized patients in mental hospitals held against their will.
left-wing reformers who thought they were protecting the "rights" of mental patients teamed up with right-wing libertarians to discharge patients.

There were many cases of people charging that they were being held against their will and reports of severe abuse and inhumane treatment in large facilities.

There isn't much the family of a mentally ill person can do to get treatment for someone who refuses it because at least half the states forbid involuntary treatment unless the patient is an immediate danger to himself or others. many mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, prevent the sufferer from perceiving that he is ill or in need of treatment.

the charge from the left was people were being "jailed" for no good reason and for plenty of bad ones ,including discrimination, family retribution and so forth.

There is no easy solution to this, some people will refuse treatment and what mechanism should be in place to protect people from unfairly being held against their will?
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Hekate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 07:03 AM
Response to Reply #10
14. Tobias gets the cigar
I lived in California when Reagan was elected governor, and vividly remember some of his statements ("When you've seen one redwood you've seen them all" was an early environmental pronouncement) and policies (such as the one under discussion).

My first mother-in-law was a psychologist employed by the state of California in public schools and mental hospitals, and to her dying day she never forgave Reagan for emptying and closing the insane asylums. Remember that the definition of "asylum" is "place of refuge." Look at the dual-diagnosis homeless who talk to themselves: unmedicated, unwashed, malnourished, unable to hold a job -- they desperately need an asylum of some sort.

Historically there had been many abuses built into the mental illness system, from involuntary admissions and confinement to shock therapy, prefrontal lobotomies, and forced sterilizations. The ACLU rightly took up this issue.

In the 1960s powerful and effective anti-psychotic medications were finally being developed, and it looked as though they were THE answer to certain mental illnesses. Creative planners came up with the idea of creating a network of halfway houses within communities, places where patients could live a more normal life but under supervision. Those who were to run these halfway houses would supervise medication regimens and normal living skills with an eye to reintegrating the patient into the community.

And, most attractive to politicians like Gov. Reagan, halfway houses would be a lot cheaper to run than the old system of state-run mental hospitals. He went for it.

The problem was in the follow-through. Very, very few halfway houses were ever created. The state hospitals were emptied out. Patients who were sort of functional in a very structured institution were released to their families or to the world at large, clutching their bag of medicines and prescriptions. They were supposed to be normal.

These medicines have side-effects, some of them very unpleasant. They cost money, which is a consideration for someone who may or may not be able to get and keep a job. If the patient actually is feeling much better and more functional, they may decide to stop taking their medications, and being an adult they are likely to resist being told what to do by their parent or spouse. Some people made it back to normal life, but a lot did not.

The situation has only gotten worse in the decades since then. There is simply not much of a safety net. It's a rare person who when severely mentally ill continues to strictly follow a medication regimen without direct supervision. "Dual-diagnosis" describes the mentally ill who are also either alcoholic or drug-addicted; "self-medicating" describes why so many are dual diagnosis. Policemen who arrest disorderly street people and jails that hold them for awhile have become our default mental health system for the severely disabled, simply because there is no other system in place.

Ronald Reagan started this misery when he was Governor of California, but he had some help doing it. Several decades have passed since then --somewhere along the line, we should have cleaned up this mess, but we have not done so.

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Lab Owner Donating Member (51 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 06:13 AM
Response to Original message
12. Voluntary commitment?
Back in the '70's I had a friend whose mom had some mental health issues. The family was told that she could only be committed involuntarily if she was a danger to herself or to others. So--it's very likely that mental patients were being released without being treated, but the policy pre-dated Reagan by a number of years.
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SoCalDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 06:24 AM
Response to Reply #12
13. Involuntary commitment....good article
Involuntary commitment
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

This artcle deals with the situation in the USA. Other countries also have laws governing Involuntary commitment.

Involuntary commitment is the practice of using legal means or forms to commit a person to a mental hospital, insane asylum or psychiatric ward against the will or over the protests of that person. In the United States, involuntary commitment is governed by state law and procedures vary from state to state, under laws often called mental hygiene laws. Involuntary commitment is typically used against people diagnosed with, or alleged to have, a mental illness, particularly schizophrenia.

An example of involuntary commitment procedures is the Baker Act used by the state of Florida. Under this law, a person may be committed only if he or she presents a danger to himself or others. A police officer may issue an emergency commitment order which lasts for up to 72 hours. Within this time, a person must appear before a judge who can extend the commitment. The Baker Act also requires that all commitment orders be reviewed every six months in addition to insuring certain rights to the committed including the right to contact outsiders. Also, a person under an involuntary commitment order has a right to counsel and a right to have the state provide a public defender if they cannot afford a private lawyer.


In the 1960s, there was a movement toward deinstitutionalization of mental patients from mental hospitals into community care centers, and this was matched with efforts at reform of involuntary commitment laws. (From the 1970s onwards a relatively small number of ex-mental patients and former "consumers of psychiatric services" have promoted what they call "mad liberation," often calling for the abolition of involuntary commitment.) The flaw in how the theory of deinstitutionalization was put into practice was that community care facilities were in general not well-funded; those who described themselves as "advocates for the mentally ill" complained that deinstitutionalized former inmates of mental hospitals often ended up homeless. In the 1980s, there was a return back to institutionalization and less strict commitment laws.


Involuntary commitment is distinguished from conservatorship, was used by deprogrammers as a legal means to hold alleged cult victims against their will while talking them out of their faith. In hundreds of cases documented by attorney Jeremiah Gutman, deprogrammers were able to obtain conservatorship orders without having to bring the subject of the order before a judge.

See also:
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mrdmk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-28-04 04:18 AM
Response to Reply #13
16. In California it is called the 5150 Law
Three professions can commit a person into a mental institution for 72 hours. These professions are a doctor, police, and school teacher.

Jerry Brown had to let go of a lot of people that were in a psychiatric ward because of court judgments. Psychiatric hospitals are a problem for several reason. One the patients are very difficult to deal with. The pay for hospital staff is very low. Psychiatric medicine is a soft science, meaning it is very difficult to get a room full of people to agree on one thing. The psychiatric hospitals were deemed to do more harm to people than good at one time.

I was visiting a psychiatric hospital for children and most of the patients there were bright, understanding of their surroundings and very polite. The word was that these children were there because of a court order or that their parents could not handle there children which the latter was mostly the case.
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laylah Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-26-04 07:32 AM
Response to Original message
15. It absolutely happened
and now many of those unfortunate people are "lounging" in our overcrowded prisons or trying to comfortably decorate a box to make it feel "homey". Reagan closed the mental hospitals and most day treatment centers to line the pockets of his ultru-rich buddies. Today, over 65% of homeless are mentally ill, and a large percentage of prison in-mates are also. It was disgusting then and, to me, remains so today!

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Ladyhawk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-28-04 04:24 AM
Response to Original message
17. This still happens.
Edited on Sat Feb-28-04 04:28 AM by Ladyhawk
The mental health care system in this county is a revolving door. Suicide rates are way up.

>The psychiatric hospitals were deemed to do more harm to people >than good at one time.

This is definitely the case in my county. So even if a person stayed in the psych ward, it wouldn't do him or her any good.

In case you haven't figured it out, I have been through these institutions myself. Mental health care is even worse off than "normal" health care. It's a mess.
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