Thursday, August 06, 2009

Who Really Runs the American Mental Health System -- One Judge's Opinion

Who runs the mental health system in this country? Not the executive branch or the legislature.

In my view, politicians have invested precious little thought, energy or resources. The Republicans decided it is too complex and expensive and the Democrats have defaulted to agenda rights groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

We all know that the topic of serious mental illness -- and what to do about it -- is labyrinthine. Just look at Hollywood. Press agents and PR gurus who search for a cause for their stars to champion put celebrities on a plane to Africa because mental health is just too complicated: you can’t just appear and say “we need to feed these starving people” when you're talking about the mentally ill.

The U.S. Mental Health System Isn't Controlled by the Judiciary, Either

I'm a judge. I know that Judges don’t run the programs or even tinker with the edges. We just confirm what the doctor says. We never say “No” we are not going to admit a patient who is a danger to himself or others, nor do we have any discretion whatsoever on that patient's release once the Doctor says they are no longer a danger. No discretion. None.

All the credit or blame for the system is in the hands of the psychiatrist. Psychiatrists run mental health in America today.

We Need to Be Discussing The Problems and Finding Solutions

Where can we find a discussion of the system? Is there a central publication that helps examine the current crisis in our country's mental health system with a goal to bring change?

Protecting the Public from Mental Illness Caused Violence

It is my goal to use a significant portion of this blog to focus upon the mental health system that our country experiences today with a particular emphasis on protecting the public from the violently mentally ill. I am extremely concerned about the victims of violence caused by mental illness, especially infants and young children.

The recent tragedy that our community experienced, when a young mother -- known to be mentally ill -- butchered her infant in a horrific manner, a story which garnered national news attention, only serves to provide further impetus to me that we must work hard on finding solutions to the current system's maladies.

Please return to find additional posts and reference information on these issues, and know that your comments are welcome.

-- Judge Tom Rickhoff

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