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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spending for Mental Health Care

While reading an article in the Houston Chronicle on how a LaNina last fall is the cause of the long-lasting drought and the resulting epidemic of wild fires that is now causing big problems for Texans, my eye was caught by one of those links of a kind that are so popular because they read from a headline that is cut short at just the right place where you are forced to hit the link or forgo ever knowing what kind of important thing you might've learned.   This link read, "Texas jails fear influx of--"   But influx of what?   It is well known that Texas not only has a lot of jails but also they are thought to be some especially fearsome places even for jails in general. 

It turned out that the Texas jails fear being inundated by people who have mental problems, due to the latest round of cuts by the state legislature in state-funded health care in places outside the jails, and so, having no other place to go for treatment, those so afflicted wind up in a jail.  The headline reads as if this is something that has not yet happened, when in reality it already is happening, and has been for quite a long time, and not only in Texas.

This happens when government budgets get tight and the legislators don't raise taxes because that would hurt their reelection chances, a consideration that donald trumps everything else, and so instead of doing what is so necessary  for maintaining a decent civilization, they go for the indecent choices, and they start seeing who they can chop into with the most impunity.   The first place they look with their knives is anything to do with the arts, followed closely by others who most likely didn't vote for them.   Included are the mentally ill.   Those people don't have too much of a lobby, and they're not likely to protest, so urgent are their troubles.

A Texas official gave a great analogy to this mental health care situation, by likening it to a car owner who, thinking that oil has gotten too expensive, starts putting little or none of it in his car engine, and then a little later he wonders what happened when the crankshaft or something breaks and he has to spend thousands of dollars getting his engine repaired.

I remember that in my home town, D.C., this process started happening 30 or 40 years ago, when the use of mental institutions began to be phased out.  How completely this was done I don't know, but the press reported that the care of the mentally ill became mainly the responsibility of the D.C. Jail and other places of incarceration.

The chief of those institutions closed down, St. Elizabeth's, was known locally as the "crazy house," and, much to my puzzlement, it was a source of great entertainment.   During my childhood I heard people talk of how they had spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon peering through the fences and laughing at the antics of the patients held within.  I never saw any of this and still don't even know exactly where St. Elizabeth is or was, except that it was somewhere in the far Southeast, a part of town where I rarely ventured.

The Houston article said that Texas was near the bottom of the states in per capital spending on mental health care.   But just paragraphs later it said that Texas is 49th in the country on that spending.   But I would say that any time there is only one state farther down on a big pole than you are, you are not near, you are at the bottom, period.

Wondering who was lower than Texas on that list, though I had a good idea of the usual suspects, I did a google on this spending.   According to the first site that Google offered, based on info supplied by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute, Texas is actually at the bottom all by itself, by spending only $36 per capita on mental health care.   The states closest to it and spending less than $50 are Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, and Idaho. 

But there are a couple of surprises.  Arizona, which has otherwise been trying so hard lately to think like the Deep South of old, is, by shelling out $173, one of the more advanced states in this matter, and another surprise is that North Carolina with $198 is far ahead of its former mates in the Confederacy.
Also guess what?   The town where I am from, D.C., spends more money on mental health care than any other place in the country, a cool $381.   The U.S. average is $121.

I suppose that anyone can come up with good reasons for that D.C. figure, including some based on aspects of yours truly.   But the explanation that seems most logical to me is that it is the place to which the rest of the U.S. funnels and dumps for  stays of various amounts of time their most mentally disturbed and disturbing citizens.

Check out the U.S. Capitol building, for instance, which contains the pit-fighting arenas of close to 700 of these denizens.  That still is another popular place of some questionable "entertainment," inside of which I also don't think I ever set foot, though on the clear days you couldn't miss seeing it from the outside.


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Health care

2:23 AM  

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