Mental Illness, Crime and Treatment — Brooklynian

Mental Illness, Crime and Treatment

edited December 2014 in Brooklyn and Beyond
This discussion was created from comments split from: Stabbing and shooting at 770 Eastern Parkway.


  • Pretty much since the days of Willowbrook, the US has been obsessed with a "least restrictive environment" mentality. God forbid we should lock away crazy people who refuse to stay on their meds, whom their families cannot control, of whom their families are terrified. No, far better to let them roam the streets at will, hearing voices in their heads telling them to slaughter one person or everyone in sight.
    Since the witnesses to what this lunatic said were a group of Yeshivah students, some of whom are probably foreign and do not speak English fluently, the initial report that the man was shouting that he wanted to kill Jews was probably spot on. Later "interpretations" were most probably public relations BS designed to make the incident seem less racially motivated. 
    I've been to 770 and really, aside from a couple of hired caretakers, virtually no one who is non-Lubavitch enters there. If the attacker had even the slightest grasp on reality at all, he was aware of that.
    When someone is attempting murder, especially if he is mentally deranged, what the hell do you expect pepper spray to do??? Sure, much better to let the lunatic kill a few more people. especially if some of those people might be cops. What do some people use for brains???
  • The least restrictive environment comes from the horrors of mental institutions before the 1970s.
    Thank you for bringing this up. The perceived lack of "enforcement" by the mental care system is not merely due to attempted cost saving or whatever. There was a real history of misguided methods of dealing with the mentally ill as well as straight up abuse by "caretakers" and doctors until specific reforms were made after the 70s. Anyone interested may want to read Mad in America. It's a quick read and details the horrors of the mental care system before such reforms were made. It may help us understand why there seems to be no way to get the most dangerous mentally ill patients off the streets and into proper care.

    I absolutely agree with @homeowner that we should treat the illness and not the symptoms. The struggle lies in the question of exactly how do we treat these people and get them off the streets without violating their human rights.

  • edited December 2014
    At present, one of the methods of "getting them off the streets" is putting them in prisons and jails.

    As a result, these institutions now resemble the large, state run psychiatric hospitals we closed.

    Supportive housing, ACT teams and the like are not keeping up with demand.

  • You speak as if you know that I am totally ignorant about the horrors of mental hospitals and you are the supreme authority on this subject. To make it virtually impossible to lock away someone who is criminally insane, however, swings the ball all the other way to the other side of the spectrum, one which endangers society. Perhaps you'v heard of Columbine, that jackass mother in CT who let her obviously insane son run "free" until he slaughtered40 some odd children and teachers, and this lunatic. When a severely disturbed, dangerous person simply will not stay on his meds or when no meds seem to be effective, then confinement is necessary. Most probably if you or your family were murdered in cold blood, you would be demanding the heads of the person who had allowed the lunatic to roam freely on the streets.
  • It's as simple as this: either you error on the side of caution and lock up every person who may become potentially become violent, meaning large numbers of people with psychotically based disorders will be locked away in spite of the fact that they'll likely never hurt anyone (essentially returning mental health treatment back to the 1700s), or you have a system where the focus is on responsibly maintaining people in the community.  The cost being that, unfortunately, sometimes things like this will happen. 

    This is where I'll point out that people will mental illnesses are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than perpetrators, that the overwhelming majority of violent acts are undertaken by people who don't have mental illnesses, that there are mentally ill people around the world and there aren't nearly as many instances of violence, particularly shootings, in those other countries.  The culture of violence in this country is the problem.  Not people with mental illnesses, who are just easy targets. 

    And if you have a basic understanding of mental illness then try using language that indicates that your understanding is based on current literature and research and not based on a mashup of 17th century terminology mixed with some regressive Fox News type fear mongering.  I'll also point out that there are multiple people responding to you who are, in fact, mental health professionals, so rather than being defensive and indignant, try listening to what people are telling you.  There are reasonable means for improving mental health treatment that don't involve simply locking up every symptomatic person and throwing away the key.  As whynot_31 mentioned, there's supportive housing, ACT teams, AOT, mental health court, etc.  It isn't "virtually impossible to lock away someone who is criminally insane."  Beyond the antiquated terminology, if someone has the kind of history you're describing, combined with current symptoms, it isn't very difficult at all to have that person evaluated in an ER, at which point they would be hospitalized.  That doesn't mean that no mentally ill person will ever commit a violent act any more than I can guarantee that for the general population, many of whom will undoubtedly commit violent acts before the day is done.

  • Wonderful sentiments, but there has to be something reasonable in between "looking them all away" (which I did not say) and casual let them all run free. While there may be some here who may be, as you say, mental health professionals, they may well be infected with with the "least restrictive" virus. It is far, far harder to lock away someone seriously ill and dangerous than you imply. 

    I'm sure the wife of the Chinese man thrown onto the subway tracks two weeks ago, the victims of that teenage nut job in CT whose mother was in complete denial about his condition, the young Israeli man stabbed in the head this past week, all the victims of Columbine and other mass shootings, and the families of numerous other dead and severely maimed individuals will take great comfort from you enlightened, liberal views. I guess those victims are "unfortunately" expendable. I'm sure you would feel exactly the same way if it were your mother getting her throat slashed.

    By the way, you don't believe that someone can be "criminally insane" ? What euphemism would you prefer? A rose by any other name...
  • What I find interesting is how the prisons have become such large providers of mental health "care", that they are now seen as an essential part of efforts to improve mental health care.


    NYAPRS Note: Over 700 dedicated mental health system and self-advocates are coming to Albany tomorrow to brave cold conditions along the way to participate in tomorrow’s NYAPRS Annual Legislative Day, which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am with a hearty breakfast. Why are so many coming in the face of the cold?

    They come to raise their voices to tell the Governor’s office, their state legislators and committee chairs and the media that ‘adequate affordable housing is essential to recovery’ and to stop avoidable arrests, intolerable prison conditions and appropriate discharge and access to follow up community supports. They come to see that several decades of pioneering non-Medicaid recovery services make it into prominent placements in our emerging managed care system and that consumer choice and rights protections are in place. And they come to advocate for more personalized community based service innovations, access to medications of choice and to retain a quality work force.

    Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to be a part of one of the nation’s most admired and successful grassroots community movements in action. See schedule below. Email us at with any questions.

    NYAPRS 18th Annual Legislative Day Schedule
    Wednesday, February 25, 2015
    Hart Auditorium at The Egg, Albany, NY

    Program Schedule

    9:30am Breakfast, Check-In; Hart Auditorium, The Egg

    10:00am Welcome: NYAPRS Co-Presidents Carla Rabinowitz, Alison Carroll

    Public Policy Co-Chairs Carla Rabinowitz, Ray Schwartz
    10:05am NYAPRS 2015-16 State Public Policy Priorities

    1. Invest $82 million in Statewide Housing Rate Adjustment for Supported, Congregate, and Permanent Settings –Toni Lasicki
    2. Create 30,000 NYNY IV Supportive Housing Beds with a $30 million investment –Steve Coe
    3. Preserve $30 million in Adult Home Investment in Community Settings; Restore EQUAL Funding –Ray Schwartz, Geoff Lieberman
    4. Support Criminal Justice Initiatives:

    a. Expand Crisis Intervention Teams –Carla Rabinowitz
    b. Raise the Age -Emanuel Kelly
    c. Prohibit Solitary Confinement –Jennifer Parish
    d. Approve Presumptive Medicaid Eligibility -Glenn Liebman
    e. Invest in Community Supports – Jennifer Parish
    5. Approve the Community First Choice Option –Briana Gilmore
    6. Restore Prescriber Prevails –Carla Rabinowitz
    7. Preserve $115 million in Medicaid funding to support a recovery-focused transition to Medicaid Managed Care –Briana Gilmore
    8. Approve $15 million in New Community Reinvestment Funded Services -Harvey Rosenthal
    9. Approve 2% COLA for Community Mental Health Workforce –Ray Schwartz
    10. Approve Mental Health Tax Check-off legislation –Glenn Liebman

    11:05 am Featured Speakers

    · Assistant Deputy Secretary for Health Tracie Gardner

    · OMH Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan

    · Assembly Mental Health Committee Chair Aileen Gunther

    · Senate Mental Health Committee Chair Robert Ortt

    · Assembly Criminal Justice Committee Chair Daniel O’Donnell

    11:35 NYAPRS Awards to Jennifer Parish, Karen Wera, Dottie Harle, Michael Virtanen

    11:45 am Role Play of Legislative Advocacy Meetings

    12:00noon Lunch

    12:30pm Capital News Conference, Room 130 Legislative Office Building

    1:00 pm “Housing is Essential for Mental Health Recovery!” Rally

    1:30 pm Meet with Your State Legislators

    4:00 pm Re-group at Your Buses, Return Home
  • This link will take you to several articles debating the pros and cons of whether we (as a society) should again establish long term psychaitric hospitals for persons with mental illness.

    The articles touch on the issues of civil liberties, race, class and payment that make this issue so fraught:
  • This group of articles is strictly of the community based treatment variety:
  • Lloyd Sederer is medical director of the New York State Office of Mental Health, adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and medical editor for Mental Health for the Huffington Post.

    As a result of his long tenure in these roles, he has more freedom of speech than junior staffers.   However, his ability to impose the changes he seeks are limited.
  • Here's a look at how well the NYC Dept of Corrections is doing in complying with a class action lawsuit on behalf of mentally ill prisoners.
  • currently rikers is not really accepting edp (emotionally disturbed people) they have asked the police to not arrest them, hence they are on the street.  I had one come inside my gate and swing a pickaxe at a bike parked there.  He sat down took a rest and went back at it, and finally the police came. Because he had a gash on his forehead he could be committed for two weeks. but if I had pressed charges he would have been released the same day.  weeks later I saw him steal another bike on fulton.
  • edited May 2015
    In response to lawsuits, press and political scrutiny, the Department of Corrections is desperately seeking long and short term ways to only incarcerate people with mental illness who absolutely need it.

    DOC has taken the stance that it can't and won't be the entity that continues to take up the slack caused by other forces.

    It should be interesting to see what, if anything evolves to address the predicable backlash.

    Community-based Supportive Housing has long been part of the solution, but constructing it is becoming harder than ever in light of other demands for land.
  • edited August 2015
  • edited August 2015
    duplicate post.
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