No, not Donald Trump. There was a guy who got all the blame prior to Trump —- Ronald Reagan.
For years we tolerated, even encouraged, street characters, believing them to be part of the elusive essence of San Francisco. But now the streets, particularly Market Street — the city’s main stem — are clogged with what appear to be truly mad people, talking to themselves, shouting.
Why? Because the community made a decision to allow untreated public mental illness. If questioned about it, many civic leaders will trace the problem to Ronald Reagan, who as governor decided to close mental hospitals and treat mental illness in community centers. Reagan left the governor’s office nearly 50 years ago, but we are still feeling the consequences of that decision.
The Czar has a pretty sharp memory, but admits things fade from time to time. When exactly did Reagan “close all the mental health facilities?”
Turns out, this is a huge myth that liberals have been high-fiving themselves over for decades.
In 1967, the California legislature passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS), which allowed local, private (i.e., non-state) mental facilities to accept more patients—particularly those with more treatable or milder forms of mental illness.
Governor Reagan signed the bill into law; in his view, this was a win-win: mental health patients would receive treatments, and in turn the funding to state mental facilities could be reduced. Of course, the state facilities cried foul at the cut in funding, even though in theory they were not being under-funded. Of course, with a lower case load, treatments improved; however, some facilities reduced headcount.
Despite the bipartisan plan, unforeseen consequences developed. Without a requirement that all mental health patients go to public facilities, many borderline individuals simply refused private treatment as was their right. The upshot was that many individuals who could have benefited from treatment simply did not get any at all; they wound up as functioning members of the public. And sometimes, problems occurred.
Later, the Carter administration signed into law the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which largely promoted the same idea for national facilities. In 1981, when both parties in Congress agreed to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, President Reagan signed that into law. One of it many provisions was to eliminate federal funding for community services and thereby transfer funding back to individual funding or state-funded efforts. Had Reagan even been aware of that part of the Act, he would have immediately realized the Act was negating the disastrous effects of the LPS he experienced as governor of California.
In other words, the State needs more funding control over mental health facilities, whether local, community, or state. Serious cases could still be funded through Medicaid, creating a virtual federal funding pool of money. This was formalized in the Mental Health Planning Act of 1986.
In effect, bipartisan policies recommended that the Federal government transfer government funding of community mental health facilities back to the states. State-funded facilities as well as privately-funded facilities were not affected by that policy. Reagan signed the bill into law as part of an overall spending cut package. As he would have known, complete state funding of facilities resulted in terrible mental healthcare, but state governments had an obligation to provide for this. However, in 1986, he also signed into a law another bipartisan solution to have Medicaid assist with funding. The laws closed not a single facility.