On June 22, 1999, in the case of Olmstead v. L.C., the United States Supreme Court held that it is discriminatory to keep persons with mental illnesses in institutions if they can be reasonably served by community-based treatment options.
As a result of that landmark decision, Oregon residents who are currently receiving Social Security Disability benefits because of they have some type of debilitating mental or psychological disorder stand a much better chance of someday returning to work than they did just 13 years ago.
While Oregon’s track record on mental health treatment, both pre- and post-Olmstead, is not unblemished but is far better than most states. There is also good reason to believe that people with debilitating mental and psychological disorders will be even better served in the near future, thanks largely to a renewed commitment to honoring the spirit of the Olmstead decision that has been publicly expressed by a number of state officials in recent years.
Disability rights advocates applaud both the general and more recent trends in mental health treatment and say smaller facilities provide a level of stability, connectedness and personal care that gives patients a much better chance to make progress with their conditions and more fully participate in our society.
The increased emphasis on placing people with smaller, local mental health facilities also minimizes patient stress (which can easily exacerbate psychological conditions and render treatments completely ineffective for weeks or months) and seems to reduce the likelihood that patients who experience a temporary worsening of their conditions will need to be hospitalized.
State taxpayers are realizing some benefits too. For example, it currently costs more than $20,000 dollars each month to house a mentally ill patient in a state hospital. Contrast that figure with the $6,000 dollars one provider says it needs for an entire year and it becomes even more difficult to find fault with this alternative approach.
Source: New England Cable News, “Mental health treatment improving in Oregon,” April 29, 2012