Marc J. Yacht: Reinventing mental health
Published: Friday, January 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
I am very encouraged to see media outlets across the nation call for attention to deficiencies in this nation's mental health system. Such focus should have broad support and prompt efforts for adequate consideration and action to address mental health service needs.
Establishing of common ground is required among gun control supporters, gun rights advocates and mental health system proponents. Collectively, much could be accomplished to reduce the risk of Newtown-like tragedies should adversaries join forces and demand attention for adequate mental health treatment, hospitals and evaluation centers.
Should efforts fail to address the recent mayhem, future horrific incidents can be anticipated. There is no desire for the repetition of murderous tragedies, whatever the person's gun control position.
The re-established mental health team could make needed decisions to keep identified dangerous individuals off the street and in treatment. Risk to the community could be substantially reduced.
Local police and courts should be on board with such efforts that would allow improved options when dealing with obviously disturbed individuals. Necessary statute changes would be the responsibility of elected legislators. This action should be on a fast track.
Too often, the jailed mentally ill are released without medication or other critical health services. Many of these individuals should have been placed in residential treatment. On the street they pose serious risk to themselves and local communities. There are too many examples of the resulting tragedies.
Gun rights generate polarizing concerns and each side of that issue will continue their own advocacy. However, there is an opportunity for all to stand together and demand from our political leadership direct action and funding to offer mental health services to anyone in need.
The argument will continue for reasonable gun control and many will comment against such legislation. That is fine; that is the way America works. The critical question remains, can we find a common path and demand attention to a broken down mental health system? Florida remains No. 48 among the states funding mental health services.
Marc Yacht, MD, is retired director of the Pasco County Health Department and former president of the Florida Association of County Health Officials.
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