Thursday, November 29, 2007


In the waves of deinstitutionalization of the 1950s and 1960s the number of people with severe mental illnesses in public inpatient psychiatric facilities dropped dramatically.

In 1955, 558,239 patients were in public psychiatric hospitals. By the
mid-1990s, the number had dropped to fewer than 72,000. By 2002, the total had fallen below 50,000.

Where did they all go? Too many ended up on our streets, in homeless shelters, in emergency rooms, and in jails and prisons.

In Colorado, the director of the department of corrections is requesting nearly $60 million to double the size of a 250- bed correctional facility to house mentally ill inmates.

Colorado isn’t alone. In Maine, Governor John Baldacci announced a plan to have the state assume control of all 15 county jails. Some jails, according to the plan, will be turned into “specialty facilities for people with mental illness.”

Almost 50 years after the first push for deinstitutionalization it seems we’re still housing people with severe mental illnesses in institutions. Now we require them to commit crimes to get there.

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