Friday, August 15, 2008

Devolution into America's Largest Mental Hospital

It’s known as the Twin Towers.  It’s not at Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General, or some other famous medical institution.  It is part of the Los Angeles County Jail.

The Los Angeles County jail houses some 1,400 people with mental illness.  Reporters from National Public Radio recently visited the Twin Towers in downtown Los Angeles

For many in the prison, they were searching for treatment, NPR reports.  Treatment that is unavailable in the community.

Dr. Arakel Davtian, one of the psychiatrists at the prison, tells the reporters how easy it is for a person to end up at the Twin Towers.

“Indecent exposure, having open containers, something very, very minor.  Peeing on the street, disturbing the peace,” Dr. Davtian says. 

The transformation of the Twin Towers into the nation’s largest mental hospital didn’t happen overnight.  It devolved from the deinstitutionalization of people with mental illness in the 1970s. 

“Rather than leading to quality treatment in small, community settings,” NPR reports, “it often resulted in no treatment at all.  As a consequence, thousands of mentally ill ended on the streets, where they become involved in criminal activity.” 

It is now time to move from this devolution of social policy, to a more evolved program of assisted outpatient treatmentLos Angeles and the rest of California can help lead the way by implementing Laura’s Law