Yesterday, President Trump revisited his statements about reopening mental “institutions” and perpetuated false stereotypes. Two weeks ago, the president also called people with mental illness “monsters.”
In response, National Alliance on Mental Illness Acting CEO Angela Kimball released the following statement:
“The president should be talking about better care and earlier access to intensive treatment, not revisiting the shameful institutions of our past.
“Words matter, Mr. President. ‘These people’ are our friends, neighbors, children, spouses. They’re not ‘monsters,’ ‘the mentally ill’ or ‘crazy people’ – they’re us. Talking about reinstitutionalization only further marginalizes and isolates the one in five people with mental illness. Instead, we need to be talking about the power of early treatment and effective intervention to change lives.”
Today, too often, people languish in emergency rooms and law enforcement officers are responding to avoidable crises because community-based mental health services aren’t there for people who need them.
Instead of focusing on the past, we urge the administration to focus on improving access to mental health care. There are commonsense approaches that we know are effective and that can be implemented now to improve access to mental health services. We must:
- Promote early intervention. Half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14, 75% begin by age 24. Getting help early, such as with Coordinated Specialty Care for first episode psychosis, results in better outcomes and lowered costs.
- Invest in better access to quality care. For example, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) are helping people get care when and where they need it. Congress needs to extend funding for the CCBHC pilot program and expand it nationwide.
- Divert people from the criminal justice system. Jails and prisons shouldn’t be today’s mental health institutions. Instead, we need readily-available crisis response and intensive mental health services for people experiencing severe symptoms.
NAMI welcomes the opportunity to meet with President Trump and work with his administration on steps for improving mental health services in America.