States Look to Involuntarily ‘Hospitalize’ People to Confront Growing Mental Health Crisis


From PBS News Hour: “Across the country, states are trying to tackle the growing mental health crisis. Some are enacting laws and policies that would make it easier to ‘hospitalize’ or detain the ‘severely mentally ill’ against their will or through voluntary court-ordered ‘treatment.’ As the ranks of the homeless swell, California is taking steps toward compelling more ‘mentally ill’ patients into ‘care.’ As Stephanie Sy reports from San Diego, it is as controversial as ever.

. . . David Cohen, a UCLA professor and former social worker, says that there isn’t much data on the success of forced mental health ‘treatment.’

David Cohen, Professor of Social Welfare, UCLA: It suggests that it drives people away from the mental health care system. It retraumatizes people who have often been traumatized. It’s a hit-and-run. It leaves the scene as soon as real problems appear, in fact.

Stephanie Sy: The trend toward involuntary treatment worries Keris Myrick, a mental health advocate. She herself was ‘diagnosed’ with ‘schizophrenia’ in her 30s.

Keris Myrick, Mental Health Advocate: My first involvement with the mental health system was through involuntary ‘hospitalization,’ which was very traumatic. And the police came to my door. Mine is not the worst. Some people don’t make it out alive.

Stephanie Sy: Myrick has concerns about California’s new courts for the ‘severely mentally ill.’

Keris Myrick: The idea of being able to get the treatment and/or supports that you need at the time when you’re most vulnerable involving a court? As an African American, I — the idea of courts, it’s just not a friendly place.

Stephanie Sy: UCLA researcher David Cohen says the ‘seriously mentally ill’ may need a form of asylum, one that’s voluntary.

David Cohen: We do need a place for people who can’t take care of themselves.

Stephanie Sy: You’re saying that there may need to be some sort of asylum for certain types of people?

David Cohen: Yes, absolutely, but not with the coercion. What is asylum? It’s shelter. It’s space. It’s books. It’s drugs if they want them. Probably, 80 percent of it is just finding shelter for people.”

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