News articles extolling “Community Mental Health” continue to be published across the United States and abroad. We thought you should know more about this.
These articles generally discuss funding, either the lack or availability of public funding, for various mental health care programs — such as Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC), police Crisis Intervention Teams, Suicide Programs, Veterans Programs, Mental Health Courts, Emergency Management or Crisis Counseling, Violence Prevention, School Safety, or other public/private ventures in the mental health care industry. They also generally complain about the lack of a sufficient number of psychiatrists or psychologists in relation to the target population. Let us help put the record straight about this.
History of CMHC
In 1955, a five-year inquiry by the U.S. Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health recommended replacing psychiatric institutions with Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs). According to Henry A. Foley, Ph.D., and Steven S. Sharfstein, M.D., authors of Madness in Government, “Psychiatrists gave the impression to elected officials that cures were the rule, not the exception,” a claim that the psychiatric industry could not and still cannot substantiate.
The advent of Community Mental Health psychiatric programs in the 1960s would not have been possible without the development and use of neuroleptic drugs, also known as antipsychotics, for mentally disturbed individuals. Neuroleptic is from Greek, meaning “nerve seizing”, reflective of how the drugs act like a chemical lobotomy.
These community facilities and programs were promoted as the solution to all institutional problems. The premise, based almost entirely on the development and use of neuroleptic drugs, was that patients could now be successfully released back into society as long as they were taking these drugs. Ongoing service would be provided through government-funded units called Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC). These centers would tend to the patients from within the community, dispensing the neuroleptics that would keep them under control. Governments would save money and individuals would improve faster. The plan was called “deinstitutionalization.”
The first generation of neuroleptics, now commonly referred to as “typical antipsychotics” or “typicals,” appeared during the 1960s. They were heavily promoted as “miracle” drugs that made it “possible for most of the mentally ill to be successfully and quickly treated in their own communities and returned to a useful place in society.”
These claims were false, as neuroleptics are now known to have devastating side effects. In an article in the American Journal of Bioethics in 2003, Vera Sharav stated, “The reality was that the therapies damaged the brain’s frontal lobes, which is the distinguishing feature of the human brain. The neuroleptic drugs used since the 1950s ‘worked’ by hindering normal brain function: they dimmed psychosis, but produced pathology often worse than the condition for which they have been prescribed — much like physical lobotomy which psychotropic drugs replaced.”
Author Peter Schrag wrote in Mind Control, by the mid-seventies enough neuroleptic drugs and antidepressants “were being prescribed outside hospitals to keep some three to four million people medicated fulltime – roughly ten times the number who, according to the [psychiatrists’] own arguments, are so crazy that they would have to be locked up in hospitals if there were no drugs.”
After a decade of the Community Mental Health program, consumer advocate Ralph Nader called it a “highly touted but failing social innovation.” It “already bears the familiar pattern of past mental health promises that were initiated amid great moral fervor, raised false hopes of imminent solutions and wound up only recapitulating the problems they were to solve.”
As for the funding of CMHCs and psychiatric outpatient clinics, the fact is that psychiatry’s budget in the United States soared from $143 million in 1969 to over $9 billion in 1997 – a more than 6,000% increase in funding, while increasing by only 10 times the number of people receiving services. The estimated costs today are over $11 billion.
If collecting these billions in inflated fees for non-workable treatments wasn’t bad enough, in 1990 a congressional committee issued a report estimating that Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) had diverted between $40 million and $100 million to improper uses, and that a quarter of all CMHCs had so thoroughly failed to meet their obligations as to be legally subject to immediate recovery of federal funds.
Psychiatrists have consistently blamed the failure of deinstitutionalization on a lack of community mental health funding. In reality, they create the drug-induced crisis themselves and then, shamelessly, demand yet more money.
The CMHCs became legalized drug dealerships that not only supplied drugs to former mental hospital patients, but also supplied psychiatric prescriptions to individuals not suffering from “serious mental problems.” Deinstitutionalization failed and society has been struggling with the resultant homelessness and other disastrous results ever since.
Accompanying the psychiatric push for expanded community mental health programs is their demand for greater powers to involuntarily commit individuals. Psychiatrists disingenuously argue that involuntary commitment is an act of kindness, that it is cruel to leave the disturbed in a tormented state. However, such claims are based on the dual premises that 1) psychiatrists have helpful and workable treatments to begin with, and 2) psychiatrists have some expertise in diagnosing and predicting dangerousness. Both suppositions are patently false.
In spite of receiving huge increases in funding in the United States, psychiatry and psychology not only failed but managed to make things drastically worse; rates of drug abuse, suicide, illiteracy and crime continue to rise.
The real message is this: in spite of an investment of billions of dollars for psychiatric promises, the world has received nothing but presumptuous demands from psychiatric vested interests for more money.
Contact your local, state and federal authorities and legislators and demand that funding for psychiatric promises be revoked until the mental health industry can prove its effectiveness with actual cures.