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Author Topic: Reagan kicked people out of institutions
snopes
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Comment: For over three decades I've been hearing people say"those crazy
people are out here walking the streets in California because Ronald
Reagan removed them from State institutions."

Ronald Reagan was last California Govenor in 1972. AS I recall, it's the
legislature that passes laws and then the Govenor signs the law.

Did that happen with the California 'crazy people?'

Since 1972 there have been several times when the govenor, the state
senate and the state legislature were all controlled by the Democratic
Party. Why didn't they change the law and house the 'crazy people?'

It's very likely if the 'crazy people' were de-institutionalized during
the Reagan governorship that the legislature was controlled by the
Democratic Party.

What's the truth and what's the lie?

Who introduced this bill, if there ever was one that de-institutionalized
'crazy people', how did the vote go down, and what was Reagan's role?

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Advocatus Diaboli
Infiniti Gritty Dirt Band


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I think I can succesfully field this one. My father has worked for Agnews Developmental Center going on 4 decades. Having retired twice and begged to come back each time working first as a Nursing Coordinator and later on Health and Safety officer. I also have worKed there in the offices as part of the youth work program.

Quite simply mental health and developmental professionals want the State/ State of California out of the buisness of caring for "crazy people" So acting on there recommendations that's what the government gave them. Overall it's probably better in most cases. A great number of these people are not "crazy" they are developmentally disabled a crucial distinction in my opinion.

I know of one girl whom I was very fond of and who loved it when I visited her that was placed in a community home and was better for it. She was not "out on the street" and some instituions still operate at some capacity for those who can not be placed, and hopefully they always will.

Politics has little to do with this at all.

A.D.

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LEE: Everybody tells themselves that... and nothing ever changes...

Posts: 101 | From: Oakhurst, CA | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jason Threadslayer
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That doesn't explain homelessness in New York or Georgia. [Smile]

In the past, police officers would arrest homeless people on charges of vagrancy and the mentally ill would often be placed in asylums. However, in the 1960s, there was a movement away from considering homesless a crime and from "storing" people in instutions (especially forcibly) and towards treating them.

It probably makes also a difference that 19 of the 25 least affordable regions in the US are in California. Only 3% of LA houses are considered affordable by median earners.

(more) History of homelessness

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Ramblin' Dave, quietly making noise
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:

Ronald Reagan was last California Govenor in 1972.

Actually it was 1975.

I think the other posters are right that Reagan alone isn't responsible for what the OP describes. I do think, though, that he was a symptom of the let-em-eat-cake sentiment that has dictated policies towards the mentally ill for the past couple of decades, resulting in many more homeless people out on the street.

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Bad Actor
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It wasn't just California. Google Pennhurst, a Pennsylvania institution, and learn why "Least restrictive" is such an important right.

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GI Joe
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quote:
Originally posted by Ramblin' Dave. Dry. Crisp. Witty.:
I do think, though, that he was a symptom of the let-em-eat-cake sentiment that has dictated policies towards the mentally ill for the past couple of decades, resulting in many more homeless people out on the street.

I respectfully disagree. My wife worked for the chief of the psychiatric department at the Brentwood VA in California during the early 80s. From the mid-70s to mid-80s there was a strong 'patients rights' movement generated by the mental health advocate community. Although there were many facets to this movement, one of the primary elements was a re-examination of the criteria for institutionalizing patients.

The point of contention revolved around interpretations of what it meant for a patient to be able to 'take care of himself.' Prior to this the interpretation was rather strict; if a patient could not earn an income and provide shelter and food for himself (and if there were no family members able to care for him), then he would normally be institutionalized.

Begining in the late 70s, the advocacy groups began to demand a lower standard. As long as a patient could merely wash and dress himself, and could perform the mechanical tasks of shovelling food into his mouth, then every effort was made to force the institutions to release them. My wife's boss spent many months both in court and testifying before the state assembly trying to stop this lowering of standards. Unsuccessfully.

Predictably, most of the newly discharged patients were unable to take care of themselves in any meaningful sense of the word, and became the homeless people on the street. It's no coincidence that the decline in California's mental health insitution population closely matched the sharp increase of homeless (in California, at least) during the same period. In fact, for about two years, my wife literally was on a first name basis with every homeless person we ran across in the Westwood/Santa Monica area. They were all former patients who had been 'sprung' from the VA by well meaning advocate groups who then simply walked away and left these guys hanging.

Reagan was not involved in this movement, nor was he a symptom or symbolic of it. Quite the contrary. The people who 'liberated' the inmates tended to be on the opposite end of the political spectum. In fact, it was the ACLU who provided legal representation to force the VA to release these patients.

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Jason Threadslayer
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Also, since the 1960s and 1970s, it is generally illegal to forcibly treat the mentally ill.

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GI Joe
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quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
Also, since the 1960s and 1970s, it is generally illegal to forcibly treat the mentally ill.

Yeah, there are many provisions intended to protect both the patients and the doctors, but it makes the system very complicated. For instance, in order to involuntarily medicate an institutionalized psychiatric patient it requires a 'Riese Hearing' (in California), which is administrated by the court system. The patient gets a deputy public defender to represent him and the whole nine yards. So . . . it is not unusual that a patient has been institutionalized against his will as a result of a court order, but at the same time he can win court authority to refuse treatment (at least treatment via psychotropic medication).

It's a complicated issue and determining right and wrong and what is best for the patient is not at all easy.

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Once a Warrior Prince

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Dr. Dave
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Interestingly, on the east coast, Reagan is "blamed" for it as well, just President Reagan, not Governor. Anyway, what the others have posted is more accurate- the patients' rights movement without an adequate safety net or out-of-hospital services. You know, the well paved road to hell...

Just to look at the kernal that started the UL, I believe that Reagan is blamed because he is blamed for cuts in social services, etc. in the 80's (and I guess earlier in CA). So those who perpetuate this myth would say "Yeah, well he was more than happy to take the reduced cost for institutions and not fund the services needed to help these people make it." I do not know how the California budget works, but again I find it funny that the same blame is placed on him as President.

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snopes
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Comment: My mother went to her grave hating Ronald Reagan. She believed
that:

When Ronald Regan was governor of California, he closed the mental
hospitals and threw the patients out on the street. He did it to balance
the California budget. In doing so, he caused the California homeless
problem.

I've heard it repeated many times by people and news media in California.

I just heard recently that way back then the ACLU won a land mark case for
the rights of the mentally ill. The state could not keep a patient in an
institution if he had a malady that could be controlled by medication.
The state had to let 80% of the patients out because of the ACLU. So,
Reagan closed empty hospitals.

Which is right?? Either or neither??

I tried to look it up but all I found was that it was Reagan's fault
because he did not budget enough for the mentally ill to be treated in
outpatient facilities. But, I thought that the state legislature passed
all budgets; that the Governor only proposed them. The Democrat party has
controlled the legislature "forever".

I am so confused!

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Silas Sparkhammer
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As always, it's more complex than that...

Under LBJ and the Great Society, and under Richard Nixon (he wasn't *all* bad!) the U.S. began "mainstreaming" people with various lesser handicaps. This was the period when wheelchair ramps started to become commonplace. (When I was very young, there were VERY FEW such ramps in public buildings public buildings...often including hospitals!)

Alas, as inflation and Reaganomics took their toll, the "pull" to bring the handicapped out into society became a "push" to get them off of the dwindling entitlements budgets, and an awful lot of folks were given their liberty who, perhaps, would have been better off institutionalized.

And, yes, the ACLU has fought for the rights of people to be free, even the freedom to live in alleyways and eat from trash cans. The ACLU has long held that involuntary institutionalization of an unwilling person, even if mentally or physically incapable, is the worst of two evils.

It was a combination of good intentions and lack of money.

(However, I, too, will go to my grave hating Ronald Reagan.)

Silas

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Lainie
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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
Alas, as inflation and Reaganomics took their toll, the "pull" to bring the handicapped out into society became a "push" to get them off of the dwindling entitlements budgets, and an awful lot of folks were given their liberty who, perhaps, would have been better off institutionalized.

Also, the community-based settings that were envisioned as the alternative to institutional care did not materialize, due to the same budget pressures.

During the early 1980's, I attended Ohio University in Athens, OH. There was a state mental health institution located in Athens. Some of the folks mentioned above could often be seen wandering the streets of the town. I don't think they were homeless; I believe they rented cheap rooms. People did what they could to help: if they went into a restaurant, someone would usually buy them a sandwich.

One of these folks stopped me on the street the day after the Marine Corps facility in Lebanon was bombed. He shared his delusion that he had spent the night before "taking dead boys home." It was very disturbing.

quote:
(However, I, too, will go to my grave hating Ronald Reagan.)
Me, too.

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tresequis
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Lainie has it down. Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and mentally retarded started in the 1960s and 1970s. The idea was that the institutions were horrible places (often the case) but also that living in the community or with family, with the proper supports, was much better for these people, not to mention cheaper.

The problem was that the community supports have rarely been fully funded. Reagan and his compatriots didn't kick people out of institutions, but they did (and continue to) keep them from getting the services they need in the community. They're still cutting today - Medicaid is a major source of support for the MH and MR disabled, and the Congress that can find money to fund a half-billion dollar bridge in Alaska that will serve a few dozen cars a day is also busy cutting Medicaid.

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Kathy B
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The law that Reagan signed was the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS), passed by the legislature & signed into law in 1967 by Governor Ronald Reagan. The idea was to "stem entry into the state hospital by encouraging the community system to accept more patients, hopefully improving quality of care while allowing state expense to be alleviated by the newly available federal funds." It also was designed to protect the rights of mental patients. It was considered a landmark of its time--a change in the attitude toward mental illness and its treatment.

The law restricted involuntary commitment, among other things. It allows people to refuse treatment for mental illness, unless they are clearly a danger to someone else or themselves. It facilitated release of many patients---supposedly to go to community mental health treatment programs.

Reagan's role, besides signing the bill, was using it as a reason to cut his budget. What Reagan did was, at the same time the bill was passed, to reduce the budget for state mental hospitals. His budget bill "abolished 1700 hospital staff positions and closed several of the state-operated aftercare facilities. Reagan promised to eliminate even more hospitals if the patient population continued to decline. Year-end population counts for the state hospitals had been declining by approximately 2000 people per year since 1960."

This law presumed that the people released from hospitals or not committed at all would be funneled in community treatment as provided by the Short Doyle Act of 1957. It was "was designed to organize and finance community mental health services for persons with mental illness through locally administered and locally controlled community health programs."

It also presumed that the mentally ill would voluntarily accept treatment if it were made available to them on a community basis. However, because of the restrictions on involuntary commitment, seriously mentally ill people who would not consent to treatment "who clearly needed treatment but did not fit the new criteria or who recycled through short term stays -- became a community dilemma. For them, there was nowhere to go." Once released, they would fail to take meds or get counseling and went right back to being seriously ill.

Also, unfortunately, at the time LPS was implemented, funding for community systems either declined or was not beefed up. Many counties did not have adequate community mental health services in place and were unable to fund them. Federal funds for community mental health programs, which LPS assumed would pick up the slack, began drying up in the early 1980s, due to budget cutbacks in general. The Feds shifted funding responsibility to the states.

Sources:

http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~cmhsr/history.html
Reform of the Lanterman, Petris, Short Act

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Nobody Important
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There's a woman in our neighborhood who kinda "falls through the cracks" in the system....

She is obsessed with her ex-husband and his "new" wife (they've been married close to 10 years). She has threatened to kill the new wife numerous times. She has shown up at my door, twice, looking for her ex, who used to live next door to me. She has also shown up at her own mother's door and threatened her with a gun.

She has been committed to the state mental hospital for some short-term stays, but she is apparently not "crazy" enough to be sent away long-term. However, she IS apparently "crazy" enough not to stand trial for her trespassing, harassing communications, terroristic threats, unlawful firearm possession, etc.

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