OPINION By Drs. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr. and William S. Bush
Special to the American-Statesman
Sept. 4, 2016
Where if all else fails, the criminal justice system picks up the pieces — and too many of our veterans and loved ones are ending up homeless, marginalized and unseen. For if we do not do enough, one thing is certain: The shame of Texas will continue.A shortage of available beds in the state’s system of psychiatric hospitals has left nearly 400 Texans languishing for months, sometimes years, on a waiting list. This is according to a recent Texas Tribune article, which describes examples of individuals who wound up accessing care only after being charged with a crime.
Over half of the current residents in Texas’ psychiatric hospitals are “forensic” commitments through the criminal justice system, which is often the only way that low-income people with mental illness can access treatment. Further compounding these daunting problems is the continued use of “crumbling, century-old state hospitals” built in an earlier time when mental health and mental illness were poorly understood — even by credentialed experts.
This depressing state of affairs recalls an earlier period, in the decade after World War II, when similar conditions sparked a mass movement that decried inadequate mental health care as “the shame of Texas.”
read more here