Starting in the 1970s, 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. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, titled “Fifty Years of Failing America’s Mentally Ill,” shutting down mental hospitals didn’t turn out the way advocates promised. Several studies summarized by the Treatment Advocacy Center show that untreated mentally ill are responsible for 10 percent of homicides. They are 20 percent of jail and prison inmates and more than 30 percent of the homeless.
We often encounter these severely mentally ill individuals camped out in libraries, parks, hospital emergency rooms and train stations and sleeping in cardboard boxes. The disgusting quality of life of many of the mentally ill makes a mockery of the lofty predictions made by the advocates of shutting down mental institutions and transferring their function to community mental health centers, or CMHCs. Torrey writes: “The evidence is overwhelming that this federal experiment has failed, as seen most recently in the mass shootings by mentally ill individuals in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and Tucson, Ariz. It is time for the federal government to get out of this business and return the responsibility, and funds, to the states.”