Analysis: US Lacks Enough Mental Health Facilities

Created: February 28, 2018 11:11 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - Amid the outcry over the Florida school shootings, the Trump administration says it is "actively exploring" ways to help states expand inpatient mental health treatment using Medicaid funds.

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President Donald Trump again brought up the issue of mental hospitals in a meeting with governors on Monday, invoking a time when states maintained facilities for mentally ill and developmentally disabled people.

"In the old days, you would put him into a mental institution," Trump said, apparently referring to alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz, whose troubling behavior prompted people close to him to plead for help from authorities, without success. "We're going to have to start talking about mental institutions ...we have nothing between a prison and leaving him at his house, which we can't do anymore."

"The president by saying we need maybe we need more mental hospital beds and expanded inpatient capacity has a point," says Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, Chairman of the psychiatry department at Columbia University, and a practicing Psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan.

Lieberman says the rise of mass violent events coincided with the closing of large state mental health institutions, a trend that began in the 1960's and continued for decades in an effort to close institutions that were notorious for inhumane conditions.

The problem, Lieberman says, is that alternatives weren't developed to care for the mentally ill.

"And as a result of that we have the homelessness, prisoners with mental illness, mass violent events, addictions and a variety of social pathologies."

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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