Reagan-era cuts slashed mental health care

2011-01-22T11:34:00Z Reagan-era cuts slashed mental health careONLINE ONLY letter to the editor missoulian.com
January 22, 2011 11:34 am  • 

It’s unknown if Sarah Palin’s inflammatory language and imagery played any part in the recent shooting in Arizona but there can be no doubt about Ronald Reagan’s culpability in this and countless other incidents every year.

When I was in school at the University of Montana I worked at Opportunity Workshop on a work-study job until funding was eliminated and I was forced to quit school. While it was a very rewarding job in so many ways it was heartbreaking in many others as I saw the result of Reagan’s severe cuts in mental health funding come to fruition. His theory was that “personal responsibility” dictated that families should be forced to deal with their family members on their own if they suffered from mental illness.

The Arizona shooting demonstrates how well this works and why this is not a time to be repealing health care but instead to begin restoring funding to mental health treatment.

A very large portion of our homeless population would have been living in some sort of institutional setting before all of these cuts took place. We need to ask ourselves if we are really saving any money dealing with them in jails and emergency rooms and homeless “shelters” rather than more traditional mental health institutions.

And had the $12,700 that was saved from cutting my job not been cut, my increased earnings from the degree would have come back in taxes 100-fold. Trying to undo Barack Obama’s changes to the student loan program is truly a fool’s errand.

Bob Petersen,

Missoula

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