Mental Health Dilemmas

While “March of the Mutt-Mitted Zombies” shines a light on the need for mental health system reforms, the age-old solutions proposed have not worked. Also, federal regulations do not bar psychiatric facilities with more than 16 beds — such facilities exist in every state. Because Congress wanted to prevent warehousing of people and to encourage expansion of more effective community services, these institutions, rightly so, cannot receive federal Medicaid money.

The real problem with the mental health system is the failure to meet the need for housing, health care, and employment services for people with psychiatric disabilities. We know what services work, but even with California’s Mental Health Services Act influx of funds, there are not enough of these services available. We cannot afford a fail-first system that responds only when individuals reach a crisis and are hospitalized,

Tim Murphy’s bill ignores the gaps in services and instead focuses on costly, late-stage, and forced interventions that don’t meet people’s needs and can be counterproductive, causing people to avoid the mental health system in the future. This is just one of the reasons why so many oppose Murphy’s bill.

Santa Barbara’s Representative Lois Capps should be congratulated for not cosponsoring a bill that fails to address the real needs in our mental health care system. The answer is not forcing people into crisis services but making voluntary services available that offer people better lives, promote better outcomes, and save money.

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