This woke rant will probably mean as much to you as it would have to the Idaho Constitution drafters back in that hot summer of 1889. I specify Article X Section 1:
STATE TO ESTABLISH AND SUPPORT INSTITUTIONS. Educational, reformatory, and penal institutions, and those for the benefit of the insane, blind, deaf and dumb, and such other institutions as the public good may require, shall be established and supported by the state in such manner as may be prescribed by law.
Our state founders wrote constitutional sections delineating how mines could appropriate private property to dump their tailings, but the “insane, blind, deaf and dumb” got a cursory “shall be established”. And our legislature has continued this short shrift.
I must admit, the legislature has not totally ignored this edict. We have a Department of Corrections. We have a School for the Blind. Indeed, the largest state department, the most employees and the highest budget is for the Department of Health and Welfare.
So why this woke rant? It’s because we are doing this job so poorly. We can do better.
You only need to read this piece in the Idaho Capitol Sun about a mentally ill man in our prison because we have no other place to put him. He is not charged with crimes, no convictions. He’s just not safe to keep in our weak state mental facilities.
Everyone familiar with this sees the problem. But then, we’re probably just woke. Maybe you have some solution. Firing squad?
Our Governor saw this problem. Indeed, the previous director of Idaho Department of H&W told me of this need. We need a place to care for the dangerous, severely mental ill.
Brad’s budget request for this year proposed building a facility to care for these afflicted people. His budget request got ignored by the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee. So, I guess our 21st century legislature has the same flippant attitude as our 19th century founders.
Go to the old penitentiary: sandstone blocks with guard towers in the desert east of Boise. Idaho has not welcomed woke.
Let me tell you why I rant. It’s because I see and care for many of these people in my practice.
I see a patient released from State Hospital North. Two weeks after discharge, they are doing okay on the meds, and they have some group housing. But they don’t want to keep taking their medications. I prescribe the pills and tell them to come back in two weeks. They stop taking them. They miss their next appointment. I check the online county jail roster. My patient is now in custody.
Do we, citizens of Idaho, want the mental health care of our severely ill fellow citizens to be managed by jails?
I can tell you, the jailers, the sheriffs deputies, don’t want this job. And I can tell you, they aren’t woke. They know, and you should too, that caring for severely mentally ill people takes a lot of work. But maybe it’s not something our legislature “shall” do, even though our State Constitution directs it.
I’m sorry if this woke rant burdens you. But I live in a town where severely mentally ill people have taken up arms and killed people.
I can’t say that Brad’s $24M facility would have prevented any of these deaths. But I can say that when Republicans respond to mass murders with calls for mental health considerations, not woke gun control appeals, then vote down a small effort, it’s a bit crazy.
But woke and crazy may actually be two sides of the same coin. Maybe we should talk about it.