St. Elizabeth’s, Mental Illness, and Greed…

Okay, so when I have to sit in traffic forEVER going from work to home, or vice versa, I often have NPR on the radio, which means I’m generally listening to Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

On July 6th, I was listening to Morning Edition and I heard Susan Stanberg’s story about St. Elizabeth’s (twice, in fact, because NPR is on my clock radio, too).  (Read it here.) She said something toward the end of the piece that caught my attention.
Back in 2015, I highlighted (all too briefly) Reagan’s tragic effects on the scores of mentally ill people who once had treatment centers and beds to help them through bad patches. Those safe spaces have largely disappeared because of his callous disregard for their necessity. I had to do some digging to find the article I needed to support the commentary, which derived from here:
Susan Stanberg’s commentary included the following, which is what caught my attention:
New psychiatric drug therapies, decreased federal and state support, and the de-institutionalization of many patients — which started with President John F. Kennedy and increased under Ronald Reagan — led to a societal shift toward community-based treatment. It’s an approach that has helped some but left others struggling with their condition in homeless shelters, on the streets or in jails.
I’m used to hearing false dichotomy warning bells and this was enough to make me go look for more information. I was right. Kennedy’s goal was to improve lives by closing large institutions in favor of smaller settings with better internal support and more mainstream settings.

Based on my read here, Kennedy never intended to destroy ALL services for those who needed them. There is no question that St. Elizabeth’s has passed its usefulness, but nothing has replaced it in scope and the numbers are staggering.

No, leave that to Republicans, who would rather kill off those who they find inconveniently able to contribute meaningfully (meaning labor force) or jail them rather than support them indefinitely. It’s the “taker” mentality that we live with daily. And it’s an artifact of fascism, too, straight out of the Nazi playbook.

I encourage you to read the book NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity and see what I mean. Our own horrific legacy cannot compete with the role Nazi medicine played. We were supposed to leave those atrocities behind in these more enlightened times.

I fear for a society that fails to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We are turning these buildings over to developers who are only interested in making a buck, not in the people they displace as a result of that greed. And they are led by the greediest, most reprehensible developer of all, entrenching Homeland Security in a veritable fortress.

No good can come of this.

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