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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump Suggests Bringing Back Mental Institutions

For many years, many people with autism and other developmental disorders languished in mental institutions, some of which were snake pits.  JFK, whose sister was severely disabled, wanted to change things. 

In The Politics of Autism, I write:
Shortly after his inauguration, Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. In a 1963 message to Congress, he called for a reduction “over a number of years and by hundreds of thousands, (in the number) of persons confined” to institutions for the mentally ill and mentally retarded. He said that these persons should be able to return to the community “and there to restore and revitalize their lives through better health programs and strengthened educational and rehabilitation services.” Though he did not use the term at the time, JFK was calling for deinstitutionalization. Over the next several decades, more and more people with disabilities such as autism would stay with their families or remain in their communities instead of entering institutions. 
Institutions still exist of course, but they house fewer people than in the past. At the White House listening session on school shootings, Trump suggested that he would like to turn the clock back.  He also demonstrated a total misunderstanding of why many of them closed in the first place.
You know, years ago, we had mental hospitals, mental institutions -- we had a lot of them, and a lot of them have closed. They've closed -- some people thought it was a stigma. Some people thought, frankly, it was -- the legislators thought it was too expensive.
Today, if you catch somebody, they don't know what to do with them. He hasn't committed the crime, but he may very well, and there's no mental institution. There's no place to bring him.

We have that a lot. Even -- if they caught this person -- I'm being nice when I use the word "person" -- they probably wouldn't have known what to do. They're not going to put him in jail. And yet -- so there's no -- that middle ground of having that institution, where you had trained people that could handle it and do something about it and find out how sick he really is. Because he is a sick guy, and he should have been nabbed a number of times, frankly.