The ongoing sight of our elderly and disabled living their last days in filth on our city streets fill me with shame.
It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t always like this.
For me, the question is not what the government should do about it.
The question is what are we going to do as people to correct a fatal mistake in public policy?
The policy of deinstitutionalization was premised on the idea that human rights and class mobility are a national priority.
“We as a Nation have long neglected the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. This neglect must end, if our nation is to live up to its own standards of compassion and dignity and achieve the maximum use of its manpower. This tradition of neglect must be replaced by forceful and far-reaching programs carried out at all levels of government, by private individuals and by State and local agencies in every part of the Union. We must act
–to bestow the full benefits of our society on those who suffer from mental disabilities;
–to prevent the occurrence of mental illness and mental retardation wherever and whenever possible;
–to provide for early diagnosis and continuous and comprehensive care, in the community, of those suffering from these disorders;
–to stimulate improvements in the level of care given the mentally disabled in our State and private institutions, and to reorient those programs to a community-centered approach;
–to reduce, over a number of years, and by hundreds of thousands, the persons confined to these institutions; –to retain in and return to the community the mentally ill and mentally retarded, and there to restore and revitalize their lives through better health programs and strengthened educational and rehabilitation services; and
–to reinforce the will and capacity of our communities to meet these problems, in order that the communities, in turn, can reinforce the will and capacity of individuals and individual families. We must promote
–to the best of our ability and by all possible and appropriate means–the mental and physical health of all our citizens. To achieve these important ends, I urge that the Congress favorably act upon the foregoing recommendations.”
How do you want your government to treat you should you need access to resources that you and your family cannot afford on your own?
I believe that a good government is one that promotes and protects the right of each citizen to achieve his fullest potential regardless of race, creed, gender, disability, religious belief, or sexual orientation.
“I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.
I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.
Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them.”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party Nomination
September 14, 1960
We took away the hospitals and the funding for intensive community based treatment which was a brutal trick to play on a defenseless class of people.
What should the government do to correct this tragedy?
What do you think we should do?