Hard Newtown questions

The three largest mental health hospitals in the U.S. are the psychiatric wings at Riker’s Island in New York, Cook County Jail in Chicago and Los Angeles County Jail. This ex post facto patch is not a credible replacement for coercive institutionalization of those who pose a danger to themselves or others.

After every gun trauma, people call for a “conversation” about how to manage these disorders of the mind, but like the gun “conversation” that liberals want to have, it never advances. A Hartford judge named Robert K. Killian Jr. has been arguing for a bill in the Connecticut legislature that would give the state the authority to forcibly medicate and stabilize people with severe mental disabilities like schizophrenia for up to 120 days. Judge Killian is working from his own experience with repeat offenders, but Democrats keep killing the bill on civil liberties grounds.

A good-faith effort to modernize mental health law also requires the political right to answer some hard questions. The often squalid and brutal mental asylum system of the 1950s isn’t coming back, and it shouldn’t. Can the social service planners who can’t run health care, education or public housing be trusted to identify when erratic, disruptive or alarming behavior tips over into pathological danger? Probably not, but states with so-called assisted outpatient treatment laws have shown results in limiting violence among the mentally ill.

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