To the editor: I find myself in an unexpected déjà vu experience regarding Ms. Geddes’ letter from last week acknowledging the inadequate state of psychiatric care in America. Once again, she is correct. We need to do more for our citizens who struggle with mental illness. And, she is also correct in identifying the lack of funding as the principal problem. The following is an edited repeat of a letter I submitted many months back.

These issues are not new and have repeatedly been discussed, debated, paid lip-service, and ignored for decades. It was President Carter who successfully pushed for the Mental Health Systems Act which provided federal funding for mental health hospitals. However, when President Reagan succeeded Carter he quickly revoked funding for said hospitals and services.

Interestingly, in 1967 it was then Gov. Reagan who deinstitutionalized inpatient state mental health services resulting in an explosion of homelessness in California.

It was President Clinton who signed into law the Mental Health Parity Act which helped place mental health coverage on equal level with physical coverage. Although well intended it only afforded benefit to those who had health insurance. Of course, President Clinton planned to remedy this problem with his proposal for providing health care for all Americans.

Although a few Democrats and certainly poor planning from the White House deserve a degree of responsibility for the plan’s demise, it was Newt Gingrich and Bob Packwood (notable Republicans) who pushed it over the cliff. Senator Packwood was reported to be proud of how successful Republicans had been at killing the bill.

We jump ahead to the Affordable Care Act. Against Republican opposition it was President Obama who gave us the opportunity to move closer to health care for all including parity for mental health. The framework is humane and solid. All we needed to do was continue to improve it.

Instead, in 2017 when Republicans took control of all three houses of government, they voted endlessly to undo the bill without ever offering a viable substitute.

Currently, President Biden’s proposal to address our concerns of homelessness, poverty, and other social injustices (all major contributors to mental illness) via his Build Back Better Act is met again without any Republican assistance or support.

Again, there’s an unsettling pattern here. And again, to add insult to injury we now have again Republicans arguing that it's America’s broken mental health care system, not lax gun laws, causing senseless mass murders. You decide by voting.

 Ralph Fitch

Still Pond

 

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