Showing posts with label Reagan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reagan. Show all posts

Monday, May 12, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - Mitch Snyder

Oddly enough, my first experience with homelessness (back in 1982) happened to correspond with an unexpected surge in the national homeless population.   I remember seeing news articles in the local paper discussing this sudden increase in homelessness, and reports of its continued growth through the 80s.  This growth was happening in cities all over the country.  Attention shifted from local news to national news and programs like 60 Minutes.   In the mid 1980s a great deal of attention was given to Washington DC homeless advocate Mitch Snyder who understood the importance of media in getting out his message.  In watching old news clips it is interesting to see how the media, even back then, made homeless advocates appear as troublemakers, and how government officials were dismissive and downplayed the significance of Snyder’s efforts.

Mitch Snyder advocated for the needs of the local homeless, yet being in Washington DC, he’s actions had national repercussions.   He requested that the government give one of it’s many empty buildings to his organization to use as a homeless shelter.  Frustrated over the lack of progress being made in this regard, Mitch and others broke into a building and took it over, basically squatting on the property.  Eventually the government conceded and allowed Mitch and his group to lease the building.   Still the building was is very bad condition, walls were crumbling, plumbing did not always work, there was no heating, etc.   So again Mitch called on the government to bring the building up to standards and make the needed repairs.  The government, namely President Reagan, refused.  In response to this, Mitch and 11 others went on a hunger strike.  With Mitch near death, and an election nearing, President Reagan relented and promised to have the building repaired.  This ended the hunger strike, but after several weeks, repairs had yet to begin.

Mitch Snyder’s struggle with the federal government continued until his death in 1990.  But his efforts did provoke the government into action, and homeless people today are still benefiting for it. There is a documentary about Mitch Snyder and his organization CCNV that is available on  Additionally, a low budget movie was made about Mitch called “Samaritan”, also available on

Back to Homeless Terms To Know

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No Beds For Crazies Means More Crazy Homeless

Contact: Stacy Fiedler of the Treatment Advocacy Center, +1-703-294-6003,

Report finds US deficit of nearly 100,000 inpatient beds; result is increased homelessness, emergency room overcrowding, and prisons as de-facto psychiatric hospitals

ARLINGTON, Va., March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report released today by the Treatment Advocacy Center reveals that for every 20 public psychiatric beds available in the US in 1955, only 1 such bed existed in 2005.

According to The Shortage of Hospital Beds for Mentally Ill Persons, in 1955 there were 340 public psychiatric beds available per 100,000 U.S. citizens. By 2005, the number plummeted to 17 per 100,000 persons. Mississippi had the most beds available in 2005 (49.7 per 100,000 people), while Nevada (5.1) and Arizona (5.9) had the least. Complete report at:

The results of this report are dire, and the failure to provide care for the most seriously mentally ill individuals is disgraceful, said lead author, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, president of the Treatment Advocacy Center. Our communities are paying a high price for our failure to treat those with severe mental illness. Untreated persons with severe mental illnesses have become major problems in homeless shelters, jails, and emergency rooms and are responsible for at least 5 percent of all homicides.

To determine a minimum number of beds needed, a consensus of experts looked at specific criteria such as number of individuals who need hospitalization, length of hospital stay, and current state and federal financing structures. Using these criteria, the panel concluded 50 public psychiatric beds per 100,000 individuals is the minimum required to meet current needs.

This report confirms what many already know - too many people with severe mental illnesses arent getting treatment, said report co-author, Dr. Jeffery Geller. Someone with schizophrenia who is having a psychotic break should not be told they cant get treatment. We are talking about people in need of immediate care.

State Rankings

States with the fewest beds in 2005 were: Nevada (5.1 beds per 100,000 people), Arizona (5.9), Arkansas (6.7), Iowa (8.1), Vermont (8.9) and Michigan (9.9). States with the most beds available were South Dakota (40.3) and Mississippi (49.7).

"One silver lining in this alarming study is Mississippi meets the 50 bed standard, said study co-author and Treatment Advocacy Center executive director, Kurt Entsminger. If the state which ranks 49 in per capita income can achieve the minimum standard, then states with greater wealth have no excuse for failing.

Consequences of Bed Shortage

The consequences of the reduction in psychiatric hospital beds are evidenced in the following areas:

-- Homelessness. A study in Massachusetts found 27 percent of patients discharged from a state psychiatric hospital became homeless within six months; a similar study in Ohio showed 36 percent.

-- Jails and Prisons as Psychiatric Hospitals. Since the reduction in public psychiatric beds there has been an increase in severely mentally persons in jails and prisons. Conservative estimates say 7 to 10 percent of all inmates have a mental illness, while some studies show 20 percent or higher.

-- Hospital Emergency Room Overflow. Emergency rooms are often used as waiting rooms for psychiatric beds, thus backing up the entire hospital system and compromising other medical care. In Arlington, Virginia, county officials had to call 31 hospitals before finding one that would accept a patient.

-- Violent Crime. Studies show between 5 to 10 percent of seriously mentally ill persons who are not receiving treatment will commit a violent act each year. Such individual are responsible for at least 5 percent of all homicides.


The severe shortage of public psychiatric beds should not be tolerated and can be ameliorated in a number of ways:

-- Holding state governors and mental health officials responsible for the shortage.

-- Utilizing Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) and assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), both of which have been proven to decrease hospitalization.

-- Modifying federal and state regulations to allow the utilization of alternatives to psychiatric hospitalization.

The Treatment Advocacy Center ( is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses.

"We take no money from pharmaceutical companies.

Contact: Stacy Fiedler


SOURCE Treatment Advocacy Center