The gun violence fracturing America has produced a new debate over whether the perpetrators of this violence should be put into hospitals designed to help them. It would be better to do this beforehand rather than after the act.
That’s the case for the asylum. President Trump has called for more asylums and is joined by some psychiatrists.
The new asylum is a more transparent version that provides long-term treatment options. Adults lacking insight and who are chronically psychotic, unable to care for themselves, and potentially dangerous have few high-quality long-term care options available, said Dr. Dominic Sisti, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist.
He noted the extreme shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds in the United States and the disastrous policy of states to let the supply of beds dwindle to 1850 levels. That’s what is believed to have led so many distraught and dangerous young men to go untreated and living in our midst as potential time bombs.
Today, for the unsafe and unstable, the choice is either prison, homelessness and short-term hospitalization or else long-term psychiatric care. A return to asylums that are safe, modern and humane is believed “morally appropriate.”
The Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital in Massachusetts, which combines treatment with research and medical education, is a modern model for asylums where patients are treated with dignity and respect. It may take more than the extended efforts of psychiatrists to work miracles on the angriest individuals, but the ideas are promising.
The writer is former president of NAMI Schenectady and its newsletter editor.