Thursday, June 30, 2022

Reagan Is Not Responsible for the Mentally Ill Homeless Crisis

In the Santa Monica Daily Press (June 29, 2022), Charles Andrews resurrects a favorite progressive canard when he sneeringly writes, "Thank you Ronnie Raygun for emptying the asylums." But the 1960s progressive counter-culture and the state legislature had more to do with that.

In The Fresno Bee (Sept. 15, 2022), Tom Balch writes: "The emptying of California’s state mental hospitals resulted from the passage, in 1967, of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (named for the sponsors, two Democrats, one Republican).

"This bill, known as LPS, was advanced in response to pressure from mental health professionals, lawyers, patient’s rights advocates, and the ACLU. When fully implemented in 1972, LPS effectively ended involuntary civil confinement of mental patients in California.

"The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed LPS with overwhelming majorities; the vote was 77-1 in the Assembly, and the margin was similar in the Senate. Gov. Reagan signed the bill."

The bill was passed by veto-proof majorities, so Reagan had no legal authority to stop it. Had he tried to do so anyway, progressives would have denounced him as "a threat to democracy."

As for the milieu, well, it was the Sixties, and there was "something in the air" back then. In 1961, Thomas Szasz's well-received book, The Myth of Mental Illness, challenged the authority and expertise of the psychiatric profession.

A year later, Ken Kesey's best-selling novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, portrayed forced institutionalization as inhumane. In 1963, Dale Wasserman adapted the novel into a play. The 1975 film version won five Academy Awards. The tale of a sane person involuntarily committed to a "snake pit" asylum was a staple of horror, exploitation, and TV movies throughout that period.

Governor Reagan was but a small cog in a progressive, counter-cultural zeitgeist that, along with the ACLU, was combating forced institutionalization. Andrews has waxed nostalgic for those liberating times, so he should just kick back and enjoy its fruits. 


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