January 31, 2011
‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is not a documentary; or: How liberals created ‘the homeless’
Many of the problems we now experience with the mentally ill and with involuntary commitment can be traced back to the early sixties, when a great many progressive attitudes, ideas, and policies began to take root. There is little doubt that the general state of mental health treatment in America at the time — particularly in state-run hospitals — was rife with neglect and abuse.
But as this sorry state became more widely known, did it lead to improvements? Not quite.
Mental hospitals were closed with the promise of more local, mental health “centers,” but states only too glad to shutter large facilities as a cost-saving measure tended not to establish the plethora of smaller centers that would likely cost even more. Many of those that were established in intervening years focused as much — even more — on social issues than the less glamorous and socially conscious treatment of the mentally ill. Perhaps the most dangerous effect was the watering down of involuntary commitment laws, which almost uniformly tilted toward empowering the individual and restricting the power of the state.
One result is the relatively well-known fact that a great many of the “homeless” (who tend to disappear when Democrats hold the White House) owe that condition primarily to their mental illness rather than the cruelty of uncaring conservatives.