'It is a crisis of unimaginable proportions'
This news is NOT new! It has been going on for decades and meaningful progress
has NOT been made in resolving this critical issue. I have a son, diagnosed
with schizophrenia, who spent many months in the Utah County Jail in 2006
awaiting a bed at the Utah State Hospital. That son was locked up in an
isolated small cell where he became even more distrustful and sick. We
counseled with attorneys, the State Hospital, doctors, the county jail
administrators and anyone we thought might be able to assist. We wrote to the
newspapers and reported what was happening. Finally, after this last effort of
going public one bed miraculously opened up at the State Hospital. Because we
fought constantly and went public in order to seek the best help for our son he
did get moved from jail to a hospital.
Hmm...and remember all of those news stories in recent years lauding how Utah
nearly ended homelessness with the "Housing First" model?
Perhaps these people are the sane ones, and the rest of us are mentally ill.
Deseret News - thank you for bringing attention to this tragic problem in our
society. It's time we started seeing people with mental illness for what
they are - people with neurobiological disorders - diseases that deserve the
same level of attention as breast cancer, heart disease, and sepsis. The effect
of mental illness on people and their families is devastating. We can - and must
- do better than this.To the families who were courageous enough to
share their stories - my heart goes out to you. You are living through a
nightmare. Time for the rest of us - especially our legislators - to not only be
more compassionate, but also to take action. This is a public health crisis,
embarrassingly handled by a society that claims to be civilized.
Powerful story. Thank you Deseret News for some great reporting. I grew up in
Utah. Embarrassed and saddened for the broken process that shockingly allows
the mentally ill to sit in prison where they only get worse. Shocked that in
one case a severely mentally ill individual was actually released back into the
community? Utah's system is broken when it comes to the mentally ill. For
a state that was based on Christian principles of love, charity and
service....this is a black eye and needs to be rectified. The state is failing
the mentally ill and i hope this story can lead to some change. I pray for the
families in this story and for those impacted around the world by mental
Over crowding in Utah' s system...under crowding in neighboring states.
Such an obvious solution that I'm sure it has been studied many times...but
why does is not work? When were reciprocal agreements between these
states last investigated? ssjackson
This story is heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking. So very tragic for
these families dealing with a loved one's mental illness. We have a
15-year old son who struggles behaviorally and socially and has had anxiety
since he was a toddler. He is medicated and has spent the bulk of his growing
up years in and out of therapy. I worry daily about what the future holds for
him and if he will be able to function in society as a responsible, productive
adult. Reading these stories here only adds to my worry. What is to be done
with these tortured souls?
We have a son that has been diagnosed as a Paranoid Schizophrenic. He is 38
years old and currently serving 60 days in our county jail. He continues to be
in and out of jail. He may end up back at the State Prison for misdemeanor
crimes because he doesn't show up for his court dates. People who are
schizophrenic don't always understand that they are sick. I have read my
sons journals and my heart has broken as I have read his entries trying to make
sense of the voices he hears. For awhile he thought we were talking to him
telepathically and lying to him when we said we weren't. He takes illegal
drugs to quiet the voices and ends up in jail for that also. He is on
medication for schizophrenia and treated at Wasatch Mental Health and he is
disabled, but we still struggle daily to find answers on how to help and keep
him out of jail. Even medicated he is still delusional. People have know idea of
the price paid emotionally by a family dealing mental illness. We have 6
children. He is our second oldest. I hope the Deseret News will continue with
more articles bringing more light to the plight of our mentally ill and their
families. This is only the tip of the ice berg.
Obviously more money, commitment and direction have to be provided to solve this
problem which is growing worse every day. This article's depth of research
is apparent and sorely needed in order to open our eyes to this black stain on
our humanity. A first reaction is why are there not enough beds and outpatient
clinics for treatment of the mentally ill..is it because they are not revenue
producing, oh surely not! We give millions in subsidies to bring in new
business but we can't take care of our mentally ill? If we have a budget
surplus, this should be the place to put it, expand the state hospital, build
more outpatient mental health clinics, and use jails and prisons for the real
criminals. The mentally ill should not be trapped in those austere,
ill-prepared facilities..they need treatment, not punishment. If Utah
advertises itself as an "Elevated" state, it needs to act like one, for
its citizens' welfare as a whole, including its vulnerable non-revenue
@At long last.. "Blame the ACLU and liberals for doing away with
involuntary confinement"Way to go! We needed someone to bring in
some partisan rancor into an issue that is entirely non-partisan. FYI, this
issue has nothing to do with involuntary confinement. It has to do with beds.
Not enough beds means no place to treat anyone requiring help, whether they are
involuntarily committed or not.In the spirit of working together, I
won't mention the administration that presided over the total decimation of
our mental health safety net in the 1980's.
@at long last. . .Ronald Reagan Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
(OBRA) of 1981 repealed repealed President Carter’s Mental Health Systems
Act which was supposed to continue federal funding for mental health programs
and shut down mental institutions. it's not opinion it's not fake
news, false narrative, its not the ACLU or however else you want to blame it is
"Society was much better before the liberal laws regarding these issues were
unleashed on our society."Reagan was a liberal???Remember, it was Ronald Reagan who closed mental hospitals and pushed laws
making it nearly impossible for people to be committed involuntarily to
hospitals for treatment.
Wonderful article. Here's hoping the rest of the media take up the story.
And, may the Deseret News stay on the story. Wonder what the governor and
legislators would have to say.
Where are they supposed to be? Living on our sidewalks and panhandling to self
medicate? No thank you we have enough of that issue already. We need to start
looking at rounding those up of the streets and putting an end to panhandling.
Enough is enough. Society was much better before the liberal laws regarding
these issues were unleashed on our society. Round em up, commit them, force them
into treatment but by all means keep them off the streets. Enough of liberal
So in Utah, pedophiles are in jail for a shorter amount of time than mentally
ill inmates have to wait to get medical help. No, the state of Utah isn't
This is some of the finest reporting I've ever read anywhere on this issue.
Many thanks to the Deseret News and it's fine reporters for publishing it.
A few comments:1) To Mrs. Norman who said, "I can't, spin his
story in a way that would solicit compassion from people." Well, you have my
compassion. And more importantly, you and your son have the Lord's
compassion and understanding.2) If someone was obviously insane when they
committed a crime, what is the point of trying to make them sane so they can
stand trial? Their state of mind when the crime was committed should be the key
factor.3) There is this movement to move the Utah state prison to an area
near the airport. I'm not sure the real reason was ever adequately
explained. Just so the area where the prison now sits can be developed? I
suggest instead of building a new prison, that the land instead be used for a
new state hospital. 4) I agree with At Long Last.
The presentation of some of these numbers are a bit misleading. The reason
Arizona has no forensic wait list is because all state hospital beds are for
"forensic" patients, i.e. those that are coming through the jails.
That means that all "civil" patients, i.e. mentally ill homeless or
those not committed with a crime are on their own and have nowhere to go. Utah has been very good in managing their mentally ill homeless
population as a result of making beds open for "civil" patients.
However, there can be no doubt that the State Hospital is understaffed and
underfunded. I urge our elected leaders to do what it takes to care for these
extremely vulnerable members of our community.
This is the saddest story I have read in years. The governor and legislators
have definitely let us down by doing things the "Utah way" and ignoring
this silent minority. Just because this effects fewer of us than would vote
for them this issue is being ignored. This is a shame on us and society for not
providing for the needs of these people.
goodnight-goodluck - You are sadly, but likely deliberately, misinformed. Blame
the ACLU and liberals for doing away with involuntary confinement which had the
insane committed to asylums. Now, involuntary commitment is no longer allowed.
That is why they are on the streets and in cells, not Reagan era changes.
Thank you very much Deseret News for developing and publishing this story. I was
shocked and extraordinarily saddened. I needed to know about this situation. We
all did.Time for us to take responsibility. Please forward a link to
this story to your State and Federal Representatives and Senators. Tell them we
cannot claim the virtues or potential benefits of greater State control over
health care with this egg on Utah's face.
The most telling part of this very thorough article is the glaring discrepancy
in the wait times for competency rulings here in Utah versus its neighboring
states, most of which have times of up to a couple weeks with the worst of them
being Wyoming at a little over one fourth the time it takes Utah. With
comparisons like that it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Utah is
failing, completely, in this area of public health administration.I
know something about the problems of mental illness, having several friends and
family who have been tragically affected by it. From that experience I am very
sympathetic with the poor middle managers of this horrendous situation. The
ones who are on the front lines trying to cope with the overwhelming demands of
their jobs while being provided woefully inadequate support from the
administration. But, it is we, the electorate, who are ultimately responsible.
We can and **must** do better.
If this was a physical problem such as SARS there would be an outcry if only 5
people were affected, but because it's a mental problem no funding because
we are not sure how to help. Very informative article hopefully it will cause
There used to be community based resources, halfway houses and support centers
run by mental health professionals. The Reagan 80's changed all that
funding was eliminated and prisons and jails became the defacto providers of
mental health services. The public would call law enforcers about erratic
behavior, law enforcement would transport to a local medical facility where a
biopsy would be done of the individuals wallet. Finding no money or valid
insurance card it would be deemed nothing can be done for the person here and
they would subsequently end up in Jail. At the end of the day this
problem, like the lack of bed space in the Salt Lake County Jail, and the Salt
Lake City Homeless Problem. All require money, lots of money. Some of which
could have been had back from the federal government had our legislature chosen
expanded medicare. Instead of refusing the federal funding, on the flawed
thought process of "what if we commit to it and the feds don't give us
the money next year?"
Where else you gonna put them? Regardless of mental conditions, if they are
committing crimes they need to be off the streets.
Very grateful to the Deseret News for this powerful story.Fixing
this tragedy should be the number one priority of the Governor of this state and
the legislature, since the situation has gotten much worse under their watch.
While this state enjoys a fat surplus of state funds, surely using those funds
to build mental health clinics is more than reasonable. This is
just the tip of the iceberg, actually. This is dealing only with those who are
supposed to be treated in order to stand trial.Two much larger
issues are: Should they be tried for crimes in the first place? And, what about
the fact that over 50 per cent of all prisoners in Utah jails and the state
prison are either mentally ill or on drugs?Those who advocate for
the "tough on crime" policies in this state ought to take a second look
at what really happens on the other side of "lock-em-up." The reality
has a way of changing one's perceptions.
I understand that there are no easy solutions to the mental health and crime
problems discussed in this article, but I hope we all acknowledge that Utah can
do much better. We must insist that policy makers tackle this issue head-on! As
the article discusses, other states — our neighbors! — have done far
better than us addressing many of these problems. We have no excuse, at the very
least, for not following their example.