[Continuing the Your life back on track article series from Jessica Kasevich of JK Therapy...]

Obama, what about our broken mental health system?

By Jessica Kasevich

Why are there more shootings today? Are people crazier than when we were kids?

It seems like we are all asking ourselves these questions, trying to understand why shootings occur. How do we solve the problem of the increase in shootings over the years?

Do we get rid of the second amendment?

Do we create laws that limit the amount of screen time children engage in, viewing violence as a form of entertainment? Do we reinstate our mental health institutions that were deinstitutionalized in 1955?

Yes, deinstitutionalization! What is deinstitutionalization? Deinstitutionalization was the process of moving mentally ill patients out of mental institutions, (We all remember One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and into the community which started in 1955. The goal was for the government to “save money” on hospitalization costs as they believed outpatient treatment with a therapist and a psychiatrist would be cheaper and more liberating for the patients. They also believed that it would be cheaper to pay this population’s disability benefits to help them pay for their basic needs over costs of an institution. If you are not aware, being severely mentally ill qualifies one to receive disability benefits.

Another influence on the movement for deinstitutionalization was the development of anti-psychotic medications. These new drugs allowed patients the opportunity to overcome their debilitating psychiatric condition and strive to become active members of the community (so was thought by the government at the time). How many people do you know who are severely mentally ill, receive monthly disability benefits and are actively employed?

Ten years after deinstitutionalization began the government realized that mentally ill patients were not getting the services they needed in the community. The government decided to mandate that Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) become parts of communities to help this population. The government would and has funded these centers since 1965. Just like any other government organization there are cut backs leaving this population in an even more helpless state at present time? For those of you who do not know what a Community Mental Health Center is, there is one located on 3rd and Grand next to St. Francis Church. This CMHC is affiliated with Hoboken University Medical Center.