Bringing Back Mental Institutions Won't Stop Mass Shootings

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Comprehensive, integrated, and evidence-based care​ in communities can foster recovery and allow people to live functional and meaningful lives.

It’s inaccurate and cruel to blame people with mental illness for societal violence. Rather than reverting to outdated, ineffective, and inhumane approaches to mental health, we should instead invest in community-based treatment that works. Comprehensive, integrated, and evidence-based care in communities can foster recovery and allow people to live functional and meaningful lives.

Notwithstanding the real challenges to creating and maintaining a robust community mental health system, the benefits of community-based care have been widely accepted for decades. They were also reinforced by the 1999 Supreme Court decision in Olmsted v. L.C., which ruled that the “unjustified isolation” of people with disabilities in institutions is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At Vera, our support for community-based care is grounded in the evidence and knowledge that it works. In line with our work in jails and prisons across the country, we believe that reducing the number of people held in any institution—and restoring human dignity for everyone—is the best way to foster public health and safety.

The first step to making this vision a reality is ending misinformation. Gun violence in the United States is a legitimate concern: there were more than 15,000 gun-related homicides in 2017, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, embracing the failed policies and practices of the past will do nothing to address this problem. Instead, we should embrace humane, evidence-based solutions to both the challenges of improving mental health treatment and reducing violence in our communities.