Trump's Push for Involuntary Commitment Won't Stop Gun Violence

One of the proudest moments of the disability rights movement came on Sept. 17, 1987. After over a decade of scandals, exposés, and advocacy, the state of New York finally closed down Willowbrook State School. As the last of the people with disabilities who suffered under Willowbrook’s horrific conditions left for life in the community, many saw an opportunity to plan for a brighter future.

With the rise of Medicaid Home and Community Based Services, people with disabilities were increasingly gaining support in the community rather than being forced into segregated lives in institutions. Today most people with disabilities are supported in their own homes or communities. While more work remains to be done, Americans with disabilities enjoy more rights, greater autonomy, and higher quality of life than ever before.

On Monday, Donald Trump proposed turning back the clock. “We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions, because a lot of folks in this room closed their mental institutions also,” Trump said in remarks to a group of the nation’s governors. “You know, in the old days we had mental institutions. We had a lot of them. And you could nab somebody like this, because they … knew something was off.”

Trump’s remarks are part of a pattern. Across the country, elected officials have responded to gun violence by calling for restricting the rights of people with mental illness and returning to outdated practices of segregating them and other people with disabilities. Shortly after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Broward County sheriff called for expanding the state’s involuntary commitment law, the Baker Act, to make it easier to involuntarily commit a person based on their social media postings.

Current law allows for involuntary commitment where authorities can show that an individual is a danger to themselves or others. This standard is the result of generations of advocacy to address the over-use of institutionalization and the abusive way involuntary commitment statutes have been employed in the past. Even today, many states are too quick to resort to involuntary commitment. Florida has a track record of overusing the Baker Act, particularly on children with developmental disabilities. In Miami-Dade County, the Baker Act is used more than three times every school day. This and similar practices subject students with disabilities to coercion and segregation without offering any meaningful benefit to them or public safety.

Mass shootings demand a meaningful policy response. But a closer look at the data shows that segregating people with mental illness and bringing back outdated and dangerous long-term institutionalization is not the way. Indeed, a comprehensive analysis from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law found no meaningful correlation between the availability of psychiatric hospital beds and homicides involving firearms. Mental illness has very little predictive value for determining an individual’s likelihood of committing a violent crime.

But for the president, it's easier to offer knee-jerk, uninformed opinions rather than to do the hard work of formulating fact-driven policies that refrain from scapegoating entire communities. 

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Dr. Timothy Leary

Committing people to mental institutions and such facilities costs the government's tax payer's money. That is the real reason they have been closing them. The United States resources are dwindling and we can't afford to support massively hospitalizing people anymore.


i agree - this costs money - this admin is all about cutting funding - who is going to py for this ? the people that get committed? kind of sounds like the well funded border


We shouldn't be hospitalizing or warehousing people in the type of mental institutions that used to exist. That's obvious. But people with mental illnesses shouldn't be homeless or living in unstable situations, as Nicholas Cruz was, either. Some sort of managed care should be available for those who need it.


There's a BIG difference between OFFERING housing and other resources to those deemed "mentally ill" and FORCING "treatment" on them in the form of incarceration and forced drug ingestion. Many if not most of the school shooters had received PLENTY of "mental health treatment," and the majority were still taking or were withdrawing from psychiatric drugs at the time of the incident. It is obvious that psychiatric drugs DO NOT prevent mass shootings, and there's some evidence they may contribute to them happening. It's not merely a lack of support, the actual mental health services provided are not meeting the needs of those they are supposed to be helping. Start with providing safe housing and food, and many of the cases of "mental illness" are shown to abate quickly. Provide actual human support instead of labels and drugs, and you might find that those with "mental illnesses" are actually quite capable of recovering and moving on to functioning lives in the community. But we have to stop believing in the magic of labels and drugs. They just don't work!


There is no excuse for that either, kid. "managed care" makes death look better than life, it really isn't much different from a jail or nuthouse.

People should be offered a choice, never forced. If they want to stay homeless or even die let them. If they're not violating the law piss off.


I have worked in psychiatric hospitals throughout my career and the movement to deinstitutionalize services has several drawbacks. As a discharge planner on a psych unit, sometimes the appropriate level of care for discharge is a long term residential facility or a locked psych unit which sadly are often full. I support independent living when possible but often due to many factors (lack of needed services being one of them) living independently isn't in the individual's best interest and often leads to frequent and costly hospital stays. I think Trump usually is uninformed on most ideas he spews but there is some truth to the downside of deinstitutionalization.


As long as psychiatric hospitals do not do the things they used to do. Such as induced coma's, electrical shock treatment, etc. My old psychologist was institutionalized and went through that shit. He beat it without drugs and sure determination. For me, he is the best doctor I've had.


cathleen and steve i agree with you, I have been treated for and still am for a major mental disorder. I am very compliant, and fortunately, with my family I have a great support system. I think President Trump is talking invulontary ngto a hosp doe dx. and treatment started. Many people won't seek help due to the stigma involved. I have seen it while an impatient and as I was working as an RN. Which I have been on disability 15yrs. and still pray to work again. I refused to have two of my children put on drugs for adhd. not needed. We do need to stop all the stigma. Definitely need to stop blaming all of societies ills on people with mental disorders. I know, I do not need to be around a gun. Mental disorders are not always the reason!


By all means, the current system of having most mentally ill people walking and living on our streets is a smashing success. We just had a 22 year old woman killed by one in a Winchester, Mass library; to say nothing of people shoved in front of trains by. them in New York. All in all, a smashing success..


Obviously, the only solution is to confiscate all guns, impeach Trump for collusion with Putin and if people try to fight these things, put them in a mental institution until they can be rational.


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