Psychiatric Beds, Incarceration, and Murders Involving Firearms – Related?

*Please note: This blog post was authored by Stephanie Yin, a Human Development and Family Sciences major at the University of Texas and the new Public Policy Intern for NAMI Texas.

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law recently published a report entitled, “The Relationship between the Availability of Psychiatric Hospital Beds, Murders Involving Firearms, and Incarceration Rates”. This report can be accessed online at: www.bazelon.org

Recent mass murders have brought public attention to weaknesses in the US mental health care system.  As a result, arguments in favor of expanding psychiatric hospital beds have risen to respond to these tragedies. When comparing related FBI data, the Bazelon Center found a very low correlation between the number of psychiatric beds and the number of murders by firearms or the number of incarcerated people with mental disabilities. Thus, there is no statistically significant relationship tying the limited availability of psychiatric beds to either of the two issues mentioned above. In conclusion, the solution is not necessarily to increase the number of available psychiatric hospital beds. Instead, there is substantial evidence that our focus should be on changing the system from being crisis-driven to addressing the problem on the front-end through early intervention and prevention efforts.

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