Jesus the only answer?

Richard Ek is a retired Chico State University journalism professor and frequent contributor to the News & Review.

It’s been said that if Jesus Christ came to Chico, he would go first to the Jesus Center (soup kitchen). I prefer to think he would instead perform a wellness miracle for some cold, hungry, demon-tormented, mentally ill homeless person huddled under a freeway overpass. I know he could do it because he was known as a man who performed miracles, and the Bible says (Matthew 4:24) he earned great fame everywhere for healing “all manner of sickness,” among the sick being “those which were possessed with devils and those which were lunatic.”

Such people wander the streets aimlessly, lost to themselves and society as inner voices only they can hear torture them until they die. These troubled folks can get some help–not enough to make them once again productive members of society, however–from potent, mind-bending, anti-psychotic drugs that also cause such fearsome side effects that most outpatients refuse to take them, and the drugs cannot legally be forced upon them.

Demented people used to be committed, but former Gov. Pat Brown decided their rights were being abused—too many horror stories of people put away forever because they looked or acted weird, because certain people who would benefit conspired to get them out of the way, etc., etc. Gov. Reagan liked Brown’s approach and finished the job of emptying the asylums. Today we have none. Now there’s no political will or money to address this monstrous social problem.

Many mentally ill people can be dangerous to themselves and others. If a demented Northstate person commits a felony, a court-appointed psychiatrist decides if that person is sane enough to understand trial proceedings and contribute to his/her own defense. If not, that defendant stays in jail, without conviction, for months while waiting for a bed at one of two overcrowded hospitals (in Napa and Atascadero) for the criminally insane. Once admitted, the defendant gets a maximum of three years treatment for sanity improvement. Most inmates never improve to a trial-competency level, so each such person is returned to his/her county of jurisdiction and put under the care of a conservator but free to roam the streets once more. The approach often turns out to be a revolving door situation.

Unable to care for themselves, most demented folks become homeless and eventually die on the street or take their own lives in despair. Nothing constructive is being done for them, but society has clearly chosen to take care of the problem in a less than humane way: by killing our mentally ill with neglect. Is Jesus Christ the only one we can turn to for help?