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Many Mentally Ill Receive Poor Treatment, or None at All

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State budget cuts have resulted in poor treatment for those with severe mental illness, according to USA Today. Many end up in jail, emergency rooms or the streets.

“We have replaced the hospital bed with the jail cell, the homeless shelter and the coffin,” said U.S. Reprentative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, a child psychologist leading an effort to remodel the nation’s mental health system. “How is that compassionate?”

For decades, states have been reducing hospital beds for the mentally ill. This trend has resulted from insurance pressures and a desire to provide more care in the community, the article notes. According to Robert Glover, Executive Director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, states cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012. During that time, at least 4,500 public psychiatric hospital beds were eliminated. That represents almost 10 percent of total beds, Glover said.

Among adults with severe mental illness, 64.9 percent received mental health services in 2011, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Among adults with any mental illness, 40.8 percent received mental health services.

People with serious mental illness die up to 23 years earlier than other Americans, according to Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Some commit suicide, while others are victims of violence or are too sick to take care of their health.

An estimated 4 percent of all emergency room visits involve mentally ill patients, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says 40 percent of adults with serious mental illness have been arrested at some point. Often, the arrests are for petty crimes related to their illness, like causing a public disturbance or loitering.

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