Mona Charen, in her July 24 column, “Mentally ill, society at risk,” identifies the problem but doesn’t go far enough in her search for solutions. In the guise of saving money, public outpatient mental health services have endured drastic cuts. Nevermind that those supposed savings have been offset by increased costs at emergency rooms, jails and prisons. Mental illness is seen as not deserving of the same attention as other illnesses, and not deserving of the same medical insurance coverage.
Two changes would make a big difference. First, we need to reverse the cuts to outpatient mental health funding so there are enough people to deal with the problem. Second, we need to change the emphasis on mental illness as a legal problem and shift it back more to the medical model in which people are treated for their illness before something very bad happens.
I worked in outpatient mental health for over 30 years, and intervened with many folks before anything bad happened. Faced too often with “do more with less,” I finally gave up and retired. So did most of my contemporaries. These savage tragedies are but the tip of the iceberg of suffering. We need to do better!