The tragic shootings last Saturday in Tucson created a backlash of hurtful and harmful accusations as people tried to find someone to blame for this incomprehensible slaughter. All evidence indicates that Jared Lee Loughner is mentally ill and is not a right- or left-wing extremist, as too many people charged.
Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey explained in an important commentary in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday that Loughner “is reported to have had symptoms associated with schizophrenia — incoherent thought processes, delusional ideas, erratic behavior — and almost certainly was seriously mentally ill and untreated.”
Torrey writes that not only was this a predictable tragedy, but that it happens every day in communities across the country, the inevitable outcome of “five decades of failed mental-health policies.”
During the 1960s, modern psycho-pharmaceuticals began showing real progress in treating mental illness, and states began to empty mental hospitals in a wave of “deinstitutionalization.” But they failed to put in place programs to make sure the people being sent out to the streets continued to get the treatments they needed.
Many in our society are in denial about mental illness, finding it inconceivable that someone could function in society — drive a car, buy and load a gun, plan an assault — and still be seriously mentally ill. But anyone who saw Ron Howard’s extraordinary film, “A Beautiful Mind” will understand.
Mental illness is tragic and destroys lives and families, and there is so much we don’t know. Amazing treatments have been developed and continue to be improved to help patients with serious mental illness — severe depression and even schizophrenia — to lead relatively normal lives.
The very difficult challenge still is to provide a treatment structure so they can reliably get the medicines and therapies they need.
This tragedy also shows the caring of Americans who risk their lives without a moment’s thought to save others — even outside a Safeway on a Saturday morning.
And it shows the extraordinary skill and heroism of the medical profession. In another time and another place, Rep. Giffords and the others who were seriously wounded last Saturday would not have lived. It is a testament to medical progress that, less than a week after a bullet went through her brain, the Congresswoman has, as one of her physicians said, a 100% chance of survival.
We seldom think about the extraordinary technologies — drugs and medical devices and diagnostics — that have cost billions of dollars and decades to develop, which all were called upon in an instant by incredibly skilled medical professionals who themselves have spent decades in training — all coming together to save lives.
The next step is rehabilitation and follow up care. And once again, the knowledge and skill and experience of our medical profession will be challenged to help her and the other victims regain function.
There are policy lessons here as well: We should focus on fixing those parts of our health sector that aren’t working — such as properly caring for people who are seriously mentally ill but who are too often living on the streets rather than being cared for in a proper setting. And we should value the extraordinary skill and sophistication of our health care system.
And we all must be reminded that life is fleeting, and any day can be our last. Blessings and special prayers to the families of those who lost their loved ones in this tragedy.
CLIP OF THE WEEK
Small business owner Barb Warner discusses the health law
In this video from Bankrupting America, small-business owner Barb Warner discusses the health law’s impact on her business. Discussing the 1099 requirement, Barb says, “?at the end of the year where I might typically do a dozen — total — W2s, I’m now going to have to do hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of 1099s. We’re talking about hundreds of hours of additional work. And when you’ve got a margin that is pretty slim to start with — because we are little — I might very well stop doing business. Because that’s not why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Watch now >>
A New ‘Definition’ For Health Care Reform
James C. Capretta and Tom Miller, Kaiser Health News, 01/14/11
Extreme Budget Illogic At the CBO
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, RealClearMarkets, 01/13/11
The Real Impact of the Healthcare Law
Dan Danner, Health Reform Report, 01/13/11
Emergency Medical Services: How Health Reform Could Hurt First Responders
Peter Swanson, National Center for Policy Analysis, 01/11/11
Hospitals Lure Doctors Away from Private Practice
Sally C. Pipes, Chicago Tribune, 01/12/11
Junk Science and the Anti-Vaccine Fraud
John E. Calfee, The American, 01/11/11
2 New Books Challenge Myths, Fears About Vaccines
Liz Szabo, USA Today, 01/06/11
Why Rhode Island is the Model for the Nation
Gary D. Alexander, Health Reform Report, 09/10/11
Has Massachusetts Experience Put ObamaCare On A Path To Repeal?
Sally C. Pipes, Investors.com, 01/12/11
In Defense of Arizona’s Medicaid Rationing
Merrill Matthews, Forbes: Right Directions, 01/12/11
INTERNATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEMS
Canada Health Consumer Index 2010
Ben Eisner, M.P.P., Frontier Centre for Public Policy, 12/10
CONSUMER CHOICE MATTERS NEWS®
Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements: Assets, Account Balances, and Rollovers, 2006-2010
Paul Fronstin, Employee Benefit Research Institute, 01/11
Medicaid’s Mental Health Problem: Attack Fraud, Which Is Brazen
Merrill Matthews, The New York Times: Room for Debate, 01/09/11
Read more on the Health Reform Hub >>
Repealing Health Care Reform: A Live Chat with Henry Aaron
The Brookings Institution Web Chat
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
12:30pm – 1:00pm Eastern
The Future of Healthcare Innovations and Health Information Technology
American Journal of Managed Care Event
Thursday, January 20, 2011