A half million Americans will sleep on the streets tonight, but nothing seems to wake up Congress to this tragedy

The smoking guns in mass killings may not be just the weapons, but also the danger posed by the untreated mentally ill, who are responsible for ten percent of homicides in the U.S.A., according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

And many of these mentally impaired are nearly dead, forgotten, sleeping in cardboard boxes, homeless because of a federal program launched in 1963 by JFK, that has become deadly, useless and exorbitant.

Our do-nothing Congress knows the danger, but the homeless don’t vote or give politicians payoffs.

The National Institute of Mental Health focuses on the problem this way:

  • In 2016, there were an estimated 10.4 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with Serious Mental Illness (SMI). This represented 4.2% of all U.S. adults.
  • The prevalence of SMI was higher among women (5.3%) than men (3.0%).
  • Young adults aged 18-25 years had the highest prevalence of SMI (5.9%), compared to adults aged 26-49 years (5.3%), and those 50 and older (2.7%).
  • The prevalence of SMI was highest among the adults reporting two or more races (7.5%), followed by the American Indian/Alaska Native group (4.9%). The prevalence of SMI was lowest among the Asian group (1.6%).

Serious Mental Illness (SMI) is defined as “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”

SMI differs from Any Mental Illness (AMI). In 2016, there were about 44.7 million adults 18 or older in the U.S. with AMI – 18.3% of all adults.

On any given night there are some 500,000 Americans sleeping on the streets, according to HUD. One quarter are currently suffering from SMI, and half have been treated for mental illness. Another 1.2 million homeless mentally ill manage to find shelters or temporary quarters.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, said shutting down mental hospitals, beginning in the mid-60s, didn’t even save money:

Altogether, the annual total public funds for the support and treatment of mentally ill individuals is now more than $140 billion. The equivalent expenditure in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy proposed the [community mental health centers] program was $1 billion, or about $10 billion in today’s dollars.

Even allowing for the increase in U.S. population, what we are getting for this 14-fold increase in spending is a disgrace.

William Gronfein, Purdue University Indianapolis, said that by 1955 there were nearly 560,000 patients housed in state mental institutions across the nation. By 1977, the population of mental institutions had dropped to about 160,000 patients.

Advocates for closing mental hospitals argued that because of the availability of new psychotropic drugs, people with mental illness could live among the rest of the population in an “unrestrained natural setting.”

Guess who profited from that plan? Not the mentally ill. Not the tax payer. Instead, it was “the usual suspects.”

Drug companies made a fortune.

One example is Abilify, as outline in this excerpt from a Quartz article in Nov., 2014.

The most popular of those (antipsychotic) drugs—and the best-selling drug in the US—is Abilify, or aripriprazole. The drug saw sales of $7.5 billion from October 2013 through September 2014. Abilify isn’t one of the most-prescribed medications, according to the medical website Medscape. But it is expensive, costing around $1,300 for 30 tablets (20 mg), and that high price explains the high sales numbers.

That $1,300 a month totals $15,600 a year. Only the homeless with a trust fund could afford that. Fortunately, a generic was finally released at a lower cost, but other heavily-promoted brand names are still under patent and cost thousands of dollars a year. Crony capitalism is alive and well at doctor offices and pharmacies everywhere.

But many of the mentally ill either can’t afford or don’t want to take their medicine. About a fifth of America’s 1.7 million homeless population suffer from untreated schizophrenia or manic depressive illness.

Psychotic homeless individuals have a higher chance of being physically assaulted, and a study in Baltimore revealed nearly one-third of homeless women had been raped.

Add increased substance abuse and the homeless, mentally ill are often imprisoned.

More mentally ill people are arrested than hospitalized. One report, showed that 17.3% of prison inmates with severe mental illness were homeless prior to being arrested, and 40% were homeless at one point in their lives, compared to 6% of undiagnosed inmates.

The bad news is that the advocates for closing mental health institutions must overcome a Supreme Court decision of 1999. Olmstead v. L.C. held that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with mental disabilities have the right to live in an integrated community setting rather than in institutions.

The DOJ said an integrated setting is one “that enables individuals with disabilities to interact with non-disabled persons to the fullest extent possible.”

To prevent that “interaction” being murder, rape, shooting up drugs, panhandling and freezing to death in the Winter, Congress should spend money on many more Community Health Centers and order HUD to finance not only public housing for the poor, but supervised housing conditions for the mentally ill.

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