Whenever gun control is brought up in a public venue, someone on either the Left of the Right brings up the need for mental health reform. After all, the Newtown shooter should have been in treatment; instead, he was out walking the streets.
Almost inevitably, a person will respond that “ President Reagan closed all the mental health facilities.” Evidently, sometime as President, Reagan put a dangerously minded young man on the streets of Newtown, before the young man was even born.
Is this true? The Czar has a pretty sharp memory, but admits things fade from time to time. When exactly did Reagan “close all the mental health facilities?”
Turns out, this is a huge myth that liberals have been high-fiving themselves over for decades.
In 1967, the California legislature passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS), which allowed local, private (i.e., non-state) mental facilities to accept more patients—particularly those with more treatable or milder forms of mental illness.
Governor Reagan signed the bill into law; in his view, this was a win-win: mental health patients would receive treatments, and in turn the funding to state mental facilities could be reduced. Of course, the state facilities cried foul at the cut in funding, even though in theory they were not being under-funded. Of course, with a lower case load, treatments improved; however, some facilities reduced headcount.
Despite the bipartisan plan, unforeseen consequences developed. Without a requirement that all mental health patients go to public facilities, many borderline individuals simply refused private treatment as was their right. The upshot was that many individuals who could have benefited from treatment simply did not get any at all; they wound up as functioning members of the public. And sometimes, problems occurred.
Later, the Carter administration signed into law the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which largely promoted the same idea for national facilities. In 1981, when both parties in Congress agreed to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, President Reagan signed that into law. One of it many provisions was to eliminate federal funding for community services and thereby transfer funding back to individual funding or state-funded efforts. Had Reagan even been aware of that part of the Act, he would have immediately realized the Act was negating the disastrous effects of the LPS he experienced as governor of California.
In other words, the State needs more funding control over mental health facilities, whether local, community, or state. Serious cases could still be funded through Medicaid, creating a virtual federal funding pool of money. This was formalized in the Mental Health Planning Act of 1986.
In effect, bipartisan policies recommended that the Federal government transfer government funding of community mental health facilities back to the states. State-funded facilities as well as privately-funded facilities were not affected by that policy. Reagan signed the bill into law as part of an overall spending cut package. As he would have known, complete state funding of facilities resulted in terrible mental healthcare, but state governments had an obligation to provide for this. However, in 1986, he also signed into a law another bipartisan solution to have Medicaid assist with funding. The laws closed not a single facility.
Ergo, to the liberals, REAGAN CLOSED THE MENTAL HEALTH FACILITIES. The fact that states closed some facilities and let staff go at others due to their own budget issues is unimportant because, of course, liberals hated Reagan. And still do.
So the Newtown shooter, born around 1992, exhibited some sort of spectrum disorder; possibly, some who knew him suggest, Asperger’s. This syndrome is not associated with violence at all, and it wasn’t until after 2010 that the symptoms became obvious enough that his mother considered mental treatment for her son. To what degree she sought help is unknown, but it would have been covered under insurance. Under mental health guidelines, there really were no grounds to place the boy into a treatment facility. Had she done so, there would have been means to pay for it.
And then he did what he did in Newtown, and liberals managed to find a way to blame guns— disproved, since we now know how he obtained them and that nothing would have prevented this—and Reagan.
So when you hear the argument that Reagan closed the mental health facilities, ask the name of one health facility that Reagan actually closed. And when it closed. And how he closed it. And if you hear that Reagan closed it by extenuation of a funding cut, ask which particular bill he signed into law specified that particular facility be closed.
Or is it a case that bipartisan governments at the state and federal levels attempted to improve healthcare treatment and that bipartisan governments within the states screwed things up so badly that individual departments of health closed down less effective facilities? You will have lost the typical liberal at the word bipartisan.