Thursday, January 13, 2011

Revisionist History, Mental Health Patients and Ronald Reagan

With the recent Arizona shootings by a mentally deranged person, the revisionist history of Ronald Reagan and his so called "closing down the mental health system" during his reign as governor in California has popped up again. The real story is Reagan had not turned from the dark side when he was governor, and instituted the changes in the mental health system at the behest of progressive reformers of the time.

The blaming of Ronald Reagan for the destruction the mental heath system is typical progressive revisionists history. By the late 1960s, the idea that the mentally ill were not so different from the rest of us, or perhaps were even a little bit more sane, became trendy. Reformers dreamed of taking the mentally ill out of the large institutions and housing them in smaller, community-based residences where they could live more productive and fulfilling lives. Simultaneously, the ACLU was pushing a mental health patients right agenda that resulted in O’Connor v. Donaldson (see below) In 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS), which went into effect in 1969 and quickly became a national model. Among other things, it prohibited forced medication or extended hospital stays without a judicial hearing. The Governor signed a bill inspired by those who clamored for the "civil rights" of the mentally ill to be on the street and who claimed they'd be better off with community counseling.

So no, Reagan, didn't close mental hospitals or put anyone on the street. Progressive views on mental health, a misguided ACLU, and politicians who "know better" did it. Then finally (the last year Reagan was governor), O’Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U.S. 563 (1975), the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to liberty for mental health patients: "There constitutional basis for confining such persons involuntarily if they are dangerous to no one." With this constitutional recognition, the practice of mental health law became a process of limiting and defining the power of the state to detain and treat. The result was a codification of mental health rights that have done away with non-voluntary commitment except in extreme cases.

Oh, and what happened to the promised Mental Health clinics to aid mental health out patients? They built them and they did not come. Who would have thought  that unsupervised mental health patients would make poor life decisions and not utilize the support system that was built for them? Or, a better question is, who  in their right mind thought they would?


  1. No there is no constitutional basis for confining mentally ill persons. Why do that? Why not just leave them in the street to go hungry, be ill, cause trouble, fight, be victims? Why not just abandon individuals who can't care for themselves, after all it's not our problem right? Yes there were some issues with mental health hospitals, but if you had actually been around when this happened you would know that Reagan said that it was their families problems, and if the family couldn't take care of them that wasn't the problem of the state. So, don't call it revisionist history. Don't say Reagan was saving money for the State because it is far more expensive to put these individuals in jail, to care for them at emergency rooms, to clean up the mess their encampments leave behind, to prosecute those who loose control and hurt or kill people. That is not revisionist history, it is just true.

  2. Are you responding to my post? If so you seem to be to alluding to something I never wrote; nowhere do I say that "Reagan was saving money for the State". That's an absurd premise manufactured by the left claiming it was purported as the rational by the right; it never was. The post discussed the one reason Reagan released the mental health patients and that was a law suit by the ACLU that was affirmed by the State Supreme court that demanded it! The idea that it was an idea of the right is the revisionist history; it was an idea by the left!

  3. I finally know the truth about what really happened regarding this matter. No elected official (except democrats or democomucrats) would simply turn thousands of mental patients out into the streets. I have been hearing this bullshit for nearly thirty-one years.Once I started paying close attention to what liberals and leftist advocate and do I can easily figure who the real culprits are. Liberals and lefties constantly accuse Conservatives and Traditionalists for the very things that they do.

  4. Actually everybody has some blame...the left and the right. Globally US businesses were getting more competition from Japan and Korea. This created a desire to enable US businesses to be more profitable. Reagan wanted to decrease costs for social services. Mental institutions were horrible places, for the most part in the early 60's. The left wanted better conditions for the mentally ill and felt they were better off free from involuntary institutionalization. They wanted more local community and out patient care. The reductions in care were perfect for lowering the cost of social services...Reagan did like that. But funding and care was never really properly implemented on the local level. They built it and they never came? Maybe somewhat true. But ultimately not true. There has never been proper funding to really help the mentally ill. They get lost in the shuffle. It's good a lot of them are not forced into institutions that are deplorable, but are they living a better life now? Where are their liberators now?

    1. Again a ridiculous proposition as the movement to remove patients from mental institutions was a federal proposition. Your statement, "The reductions in care were perfect for lowering the cost of social services...Reagan did like that." is pure supposition as to Governor Reagan's reaction to the federal mandate releasing mental patients.