Tuesday, October 09, 2007

San Francisco Nimby’s « Bookworm Room

re: "...One of the big ACLU and liberal lawyer triumphs of the 1960s (and one they’re still working on at irregular intervals today) was to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill. (You can get a taste of that battle here.) The ACLU’s point was that it was a denial of civil liberties to force the mentally ill into institutions when many of them (most notably the paranoid schizophrenics) so obviously didn’t want to be there. I remember vividly when Reagan, while still Governor of California, signed off on Legislation deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill... [snip]... /The immediate and obvious result of Reagan’s “freeing” of the mentally ill was a huge influx of people on the streets living in filth and talking to themselves... [snip]... /These new homeless, who often coupled substance abuse problems with their mental illness, were appalling. They ate out of garbage cans; lived in their own filth; had all their worldly goods piled in stolen shopping carts; had terrible lesions on their bodies; were tubercular; harbored contagious vermin (such as lice); lunged at people walking by; and occasionally killed people. That sentence was in the past tense. It needn’t be. As the above shows, these street people are still appalling. While I don’t live in the City anymore, I only have to head to a major urban downtown (New York, S.F., Phillie, wherever) to see them again./ ...[snip].../ All I can say is that, if you measure a society’s humanity by how it treats these helpless people, our current laws allowing them to descend into the Seventh Circle of Hell on our own streets is a striking example of inhumanity. The fact that some who are profoundly mentally ill can still function at a minimal, animal level, doesn’t mean that we’re doing them a favor by allowing them to avoid health care, mental health treatment, decent food, and some level of physical safety..."...

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