You’re welcome to disagree…
In 1987, I was forced into mental health care against my will. It saved my life. They were able to ascertain that I was a danger to myself or others while I was in the county jail, and moved me to county hospital. You may have read about it.
I believe that anyone who is unable to put a roof over their head, or is at risk of overdosing on drugs is a danger to themselves. I believe that people defecating on the sidewalk or assaulting metro passengers are a danger to others. We used to have a state hospital system to house people who were a danger to themselves or others. We need to have this again. Anyone detained by the police who is unhoused, addicted, a dangerous nuisance, or displaying violent symptoms of mental illness should be consigned to a temporary hold.
The mandatory 72-hour evaluation should be a gateway to social services, whether the unhoused person turns out to be mentally ill or just in desperate need of help. Society owes this care to its most vulnerable members. As someone who was lucky enough to get free mental health care during a crisis, I am a testament to its ability to rescue and rehabilitate. If the police arrested someone with a broken leg, they would give them hospital care. Why not do the same for broken hearts and minds?
Civil liberties are at risk when we take this stance. Yes. To those who would decry an impingement on freedom, I ask: which is the greater evil – forcing unhoused people to undergo a 72-hour mental health evaluation while eating free food and sleeping in a hospital bed, or allowing them to suffer or die if they don’t want or know how to seek out help? Reducing it to these two choices may look like a false comparison fallacy, but it’s not. I’m comparing my proposal to the current situation, and welcome alternative proposals.
Please post your comments with alternative ways to address this crisis of mental health.