Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Politics 1 Real Solutions 0
As the fog of shock from the December tragedy in Sandy Hook school in Connecticut begins to vanish, we witness cries for reform that are best described as the theater of the absurd. Instead of searching for avenues to prevent future tragedies, this country's leaders are once again pointing fingers of blame at the wrong people. One group clearly singled out, the National Riflemen's Association (NRA), has been disgustingly compared to the NAZI's. This in spite of knowing that its members are for the most part, hardworking, law abiding citizens. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg of stupidity.
On a personal note, I have been speaking out for years about substandard care in the mental health system. In this tragedy, like others in Tucson Arizona, Aurora Colorado, and on the campus of Virginia Tech University, mental illness was the nucleus of the cause. To be more specific, it is a system ravaged by budget cuts, reduction in the number of beds, and in many cases, scarce available treatment. Once again, these misunderstood disorders are getting a vast deal of attention, but it is evident that it is the mentally ill themselves are being made the scapegoats, and not the failing system. It does not require a great deal of searching to discover proof of that wrongful indictment.
Not long ago, Juan Williams, a Liberal Fox news correspondent made a comment that only added to the hysteria on this emotionally charged issue. He said, "If you have a mentally ill family member, the government shouldn't let you have a gun." This was on top of the startling announcement by NRA President Wayne LaPierre, who is now advocating "a national registry of those with mental illness" be established to make us feel safer. Both have shown a remarkable lack of awareness of mental illness, and their proposals just marginalize those who suffer in silence. These comments, which border on bigotry, play well with ignorant people, but do nothing but add to the burden that the stigma of these afflictions create.
Not to be outdone for attention, Vice President Joe Biden added to this madness of stigmatizing those with mental illness by declaring that people afflicted cannot be trusted. He proposed that there should be a mental health check for everyone who owns a gun. Though he used this as a forum to garner support from a fringe element of society, it once again, degrades everyone who suffers from these malady's. This coming from a man who once had to drop out of a race for President because he plagiarized his speeches. Simply, he stole the work of others.
I have heard and read many different newfangled solutions to this situation, but many seem to fall just short of sewing a "Star of David" on the clothes of those suffering with mental illness. Sadly, it is not that much of an exaggeration to believe that is what these "three stooges", Biden, Williams and LaPierre seem to be advocating. Next, I am anticipating the call to round up mentally ill individuals, and march them into a resettlement camp. After all, that was what a former mayor of Avon Lake Ohio once wanted to champion.
Illuminating these individuals lack of coherence, is none seem to understand that no visible lines can be drawn as to where mental illness begins and ends. No true test exists that can be given to diagnosis someone; it is simply a syndrome of symptoms. These individuals live by the motto, never let facts stand in the way of a good headline!
Now, focusing on the real issue, the problems in the mental health system are no secret and have been known for quite some time. It is the lack of proper funding and laws that have been in need of updating for several generations. It is also the broken promises from deinstitutionalization. However, with each tragedy, the calls for reform are almost always ignored, or placated with minor corrections that do not require significant increased expenditures. However, this is a time for some genuine dialogue and corrections, not stupidity being lead by the likes of the Joe Biden's.
With his recent proposals, President Obama's approach to this issue was to make tokenistic gestures on improving access to mental health care. It is clear that these minor changes are nothing more than a way to camouflage his true obsession, which is gun control. Much worse, his uncalled for attacks on specific media outlets and NRA members do nothing but inflame opposition to any real conversation that could bring positive results.
Recently, I contacted the offices of Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and Congressman Jim Renacci. I asked one question, which was "Since tragedies in Tucson Arizona, Aurora Colorado, and now Newton Connecticut, why are there no proposals to overhaul and repair the mental health system?" I did receive statements from both Senators press secretaries, but never received a response from Congressman Renacci's office.
Senator Brown's office wrote about being a father and grandfather and how this tragedy in Connecticut affected him. One comment did stand out. He said, "we must start a sensible dialogue about gun safety in our communities, and reexamine our mental health system."
Though his words sound promising, my question to Senator Brown is; How can we have a sensible dialogue on mental illness and guns, when so many outrageous comments are being made, specifically on the liberal left? A notable example is actress Marg Halgenberger, who wished through her twitter account that members of the NRA get shot! Add to that the racist comments made by political exploiter Michael Moore who said, "Calm down white people and put your guns down!" Instead of condemning these useless idiots, and opening the door to a real conversation, we have only silence from Senator Brown's side of the political spectrum.
Senator Portman said, "He supports a commission to examine and report on the root causes of tragic incidents like the horrific school shootings." My response to him is clear. We do not need a self-serving commission to tell us what is wrong. It is the dismantling of the mental health system that is the main culprit. He also ignores that two of his supporters here in Ohio, Speaker of the House William Batchelder and State Representative Nan Baker are two of the most complicit architects in the destruction of Ohio's Mental Health system. If Senator Portman is serious about correcting the failures, he needs to start by condemning the arrogant behavior of these two individuals, who represent the political right.
For these political leaders, I do present two solutions, and hopefully, there will some real actions and dialogue, but if history is any indicator, that is highly unlikely to occur.
Assisted outpatient treatment was the catalyst for the failed deinstitutionalization in the early 1960's. This was the idea that people could be released from long term facilities and have community centers available for them to have their treatment monitored. It bears mentioning that the Democratic party, who ran all branches of government at the time, never supplied these promised facilities, and the patients were eventually left to fend for themselves. This led us down the path to the current crisis in the mental health system, which is increased homelessness, suicides, and aforementioned tragedies. Though long overdue, it is time for the promises made in the 1960's to be finally realized!
Next on the agenda should be to modernize the laws regarding civil commitment. Under current statutes, unless the individual is an immediate threat to themselves or others, there is no legal avenue to have them forced into treatment. In the murderous rampage in Tucson Arizona, the perpetrator, Jared Lee Loughner had a history of severe mental illness. Shortly after the killings, it was discovered that his family attempted on more than one occasion, to force him into needed treatment. However, they were unable to do so because the laws allow people like him to walk around in a delusional state. Now Loughner is receiving needed treatment while he is doing a life sentence for the killing of six people, and wounding twelve others. With modern civil commitment laws, it is likely that his parents could have had him in a hospital receiving treatment, thus avoiding this tragedy. Ironically, there has been nothing but silence on this aspect of that tragedy.
The proposals that I have put forward are ones that have been discussed at length by many advocates, and have been largely ignored by political leaders. Just imagine what would happen if we did embrace these changes. We would see less homelessness, fewer suicides, less family dysfunction, reduced disability, and yes, we would diminish the likelihood of future tragedies. What a novel idea, real solutions to real problems! When was the last time we witnessed that from this country's political leaders?