The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

L.A. Mentally Ill in the Streets

May 22, 2017

In March, Los Angeles County passed another tax on workers through Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax increase to “provide social services” for the homeless and “prevent” homelessness. A two-thirds super-majority vote was required for the approval of the measure. Close to 70% of the voters voted “Yes.” Measure H would raise about 355 million dollars each year over 10 years.

Strong approval of this measure by Los Angeles county residents implied that they were concerned with the homelessness problem and wanted it to be addressed and resolved.

Pushed from Medical Institutions to the Streets

Today, a third of chronically homeless in Los Angeles are mentally ill.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s administration cut federal mental-health spending by 30%. These cuts have continued ever since. For example, between 2009 and 2012, the states cut a total of 4.35 billion dollars in public mental-health spending from their budgets.

As a result of such drastic cuts, mentally ill patients were first moved from state mental hospitals to nursing homes and general hospitals. Then, these cuts caused a severe shortage of services, including housing, community-based treatment, and access to psychiatric medications. "Increasingly, emergency rooms, homeless shelters and jails are struggling with the effects of people falling through the cracks due to lack of needed mental health services and supports," the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported in 2013.

In 1955, there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans, according to Mother Jones magazine. In 2010, there was one psychiatric bed for every 7,100 Americans, the same ratio that existed back in 1850.

Pushed to the Jails

Some of the mentally ill were later imprisoned. Between 1998 and 2006, the number of mentally ill people incarcerated in federal, state, and local prisons and jails more than quadrupled, according to the Los Angeles Times. And the mentally ill prison population is increasing every year.

On the Streets, Chronically Homeless

This situation is the direct result of the federal government destroying the funding system it created before. And Measure H is another way for the federal and the state governments to pass social costs onto the backs of workers while funneling tax money into the accounts of corporations.

Under such a callous social system, social ills like homelessness, caused by this very system, cannot be resolved.