90% of mental health hospital beds that were available in the 1960’s are gone today while our overall population grew over 75% in that time.
When America eliminated mental health hospitals in the 60’s, teachers, juvenile and criminal justice workers and social workers became defacto mental health service providers. This is no small feat. Humans are complex beings and understanding a mind takes extensive effort & training (especially a traumatized or troubled mind). Few service providers get that training.
This unhappiness continues today along with exponential growth in an unstable population that is failing in school, the community and too often leading a dysfunctional life as a state ward.
At risk children & the adults they become are becoming more common and dangerous to themselves and the people in their lives and very costly in dollars and their impact on the community*.
At the same time the media and public are minimizing and obfuscating the serious problems stemming from inadequate understanding and treatment of growing mental health disorders.
Instead of seeking better answers, an almost unregulated use of powerful psychotropic medications is taking the place of adequate mental health services.
This is creating more at risk children and filling and emptying jails, detention centers and prisons. The psychotropic medicating of children that will soon be incarcerated as adults is a sign of a sick society and solves absolutely nothing while creating state wards that can remain so for forty years or more.
Social workers struggle to manage the 5th and 6th generation of traumatized and unstable children as they become the next generation of parents without parenting skills but a surplus of drug and behavioral problems that they will soon pass on to their children.
Politicians blame teachers for school failures, and law enforcement is pressured from all sides for better policies and fewer terrible incidents. Social workers have always been blamed when a state ward child dies at the hands of a caregiver that they should have helped no matter how many children are packed into that workers caseload or how few resources were available to the child (a non sequitur).
Turnover and burnout in child protection and education is high and successes are hard to achieve. Policing in schools and on the street has become a dangerous profession with very little upside. Way too many people touched by the legal or child protection system are treated well or happy about their experience. The media has a new sad story every day.
It is unfair and unreasonable to expect improvement in these trends without changes to the underlying issues that facilitate our institutions creating exactly what they were designed to stop (read the bold twice).
Home schooled children kids may be safer today, but they still have to live in this world tomorrow – a world that includes exploding numbers of dysfunctional and often dangerous people.
Recently, Minnesota Sheriff’s banned together and threatened to sue the state for not providing timely mental health services to the often dangerously unbalanced people in their squad cars & jails (effectively turning law enforcement officers into mental health service providers).
Over the last few years;
15 mandated reporters filed their (almost completely ignored) reports on the slow tortured death of 4 year old Eric Dean.
6 year old foster child Kendrea Johnson hung herself and left a note. Her social worker claimed he did not know she was seeing a therapist or that she had threatened suicide and homicide.
Dozens of state ward children have died or been horribly tortured since.
Hennepin County (Minneapolis) arrested 44% of its adult Black men in a one year period (no duplicate arrests).
Hennepin County Medical Center sees between 800 and 1000 emergency psychiatric visits each month and a great many of them are children (and that’s just one metro hospital).
For a very long time, Minneapolis has lived with chronic racial disparities in education, juvenile and criminal justice and segregated neighborhoods that suffer from extremely high crime (and particularly violent crime) rates.
This will not change until we candidly deal with the mental health issues plaguing (abused & traumatized) children that continue to pass through our child protection and juvenile justice systems.
That we question the dollars needed for foster care, crisis nurseries, quality daycare & mental health services for children while spending billions on crime, prisons, transportation, sports facilities and rebuilding the 35W bridge that fell in the river because we denied it the tiny maintenance dollars it needed to stay upright, is fiscally, administratively and morally unsound.
Your children and grandchildren will attend these schools and walk these streets in the generations to come and I think they are worth the investment. If you think so too, share this with at least one person you think might help us change it.
*A single boy in my CASA guardian ad litem caseload cost the County over 3 million dollars by the time he aged out of foster care (not including the teacher he assaulted, the person he stabbed or the terrible things he did to so many people during my years with him). He had multiple, chronic and poorly treated mental health disorders that I expect he still suffers from today. He had been tied to a bed and left alone for days, sexually assaulted and starved from 4 to 7. He’s always been a state ward and I believe he will always be a state ward.