Mental Health Policy Review: The Sane Thing To Do

By Lloyd the Idiot

Sadly, tragedy drives policy, and the recent General Assembly resolution to evaluate mental health treatment in the commonwealth’s penal system is no exception.  While it’s laudable and appropriate, it should be broader, much broader.  Schools, where we see some of the greatest mental health disasters, should be within the committee’s review. No doubt, such a review would find that inadequate mental health treatment, and not guns, is the true cause of those horrible shootings – and the continuing risk to our children.


  • I wonder to what degree the mental health policies of the 50’s were more humane and safer to society as well.

  • Independent voter says:

    I don’t agree that mental health problems are the cause of mass shootings in school and other places. Every country on the planet has mental health problems. Why are mass shootings not rampant in other countries? The obvious answer is that guns are either banned or strictly controlled in these countries.

    I am certainly not favoring any Second Amendment restrictions because I am not. But don’t blame these shooting tragedies on mental health issues alone.

  • Not Harry F. Byrd says:

    LA, I usually agree with much of what you write. But the comment is just plain ignorant, sorry.

    Warehousing humans “out of sight, out of mind” is horrible public policy. Not to mention the vast strides made in psychotropic drugs over the past 60 years. And how many people who weren’t clearly acutely psychotic even felt secure to speak up about their problems in 1950? It’s not like these are “new” problems.

    *And yes, I realize that today’s mental health system is in some ways a different form of “out of sight, out of mind” – but at least folks theoretically have increased freedom and autonomy. The solution is making the existing, modern, system more robust and not going back to the Dark Ages.

  • Liberal Anthropologist says:

    I was wondering, not stating. Haven’t thought it through. Would be interested in what reforms you would recommend.

  • Not Harry F. Byrd says:

    Fair enough, LA. 😉

    While I’m normally hesitant to think we should “throw money” at a problem, the budget for mental health really is still at or below what it was post the 2007 reforms. It took a hit during the recession along with everything else (I’m not arguing for or against that – the GA had to make some really tough choices during the recession) The CSB’s really could use an increase in funding as they are the primary “front line” in mental health in the Commonwealth.

    There’s also a question of competence and common-sense. WRT Deeds there seems to be some disagreement as to whether a bed was available for him. Regardless of whether that was or was not the case – it’s undoubtedly true that Virginia has dealt with this problem before – I believe there was talk of creating a statewide database at least four or five years ago. It’s apparantly still not operational. That should be a priority (supposedly it is again – why wasn’t it completed?)

    It should be noted that this isn’t as simple as it seems. People have this idea that if there’s a registry you can just send someone somewhere. But you really can’t because people have their own issues and you have to call up the various health centers and talk to the staff regarding each and every patient.

    So it’s not like that will “fix” things. But it will speed it up and it should have been done years ago. Better than blindly shooting into the dark.

    There’s also some talk of extending the time period for initial eval holds. I’m somewhat amenable to that, but only to a degree. Perhaps another 4 to 6 hours or so.

    Fundamentally, though, follow-up is key. Most people with mental illnesses can reach some level of basic competency with the medical technology available today (therapy, drugs, or what not). It’s generally not curative, but it can become a manageable chronic condition. But people need follow-up and support. And that goes back to making the CSB’s more robust.

    In theory some of that funding would be canceled out by reduced social welfare costs from having (hopefully) more productive members of society.

    Of course there will always be a subset of folks who refuse to comply with treatment (perhaps refuse is too strong a term). They will end up on the street or in homeless shelters in and out of the system. I’m not sure what you do about that. Those are the truly sad cases.

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