History of Mental Health in the U.S.

Mental Health Justice Act of 2021

In light of our recent discussions about mental health reform and the legislation surrounding mental health, mental health institutions, and the incarnation of individuals in need of mental health care, I wanted to see if there have been any recent developments outside of the rather depressing (pardon my use of the term) news and events that seem to come up in this class. For this, I went straight to Congress. I was inspired after seeing Parker’s VA legislation for 2022 and wanted to see if anything was being done at the national level instead of just the state. What I found was both inspiring and also a bit sad. Apparently, in February 2021 there was a bill introduced to the House, the Mental Health Justice Act of 2021, that would “create a grant program for states and local governments to train and dispatch mental health professionals to respond, instead of law enforcement officers, to emergencies that involve people with behavioral health needs.” Another interesting thing I found about this bill is that is would aim the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would manage the program in consultation with the Department of Justice. SAMHSA would be able to cancel grants that increase incarceration or institutionalization while grantees must use funds for purposes including “de-escalation and anti-racism training.” This bill was referred to a subcommittee in April and has stayed in that position since then. Congress.gov provides a neat little tracker that let you view where a bill is, but it is nowhere near being ready to be passed. I supoose it is the thought that counts. However, I find it more than a bit disheartening knowing such a think sound have been proposed around the time Earley published his book. It appears time has passed on by, leaving mental health in the dust despite people becoming aware of these issues (if they already weren’t) over a decade an a half ago.

Congress. “H.R.1368 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Mental Health Justice Act of 2021.” April 28, 2021. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1368.

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