Joseph Jarvis MD
Salt Lake City, Utah
July 9, 2020
Man provokes arrest to obtain mental health attention
Years ago I cared for a patient on a mental health ward who threw a rock through a fire department window. He had hoped that he would be noticed and arrested. Why? He had a history of schizophrenia but couldn’t get the care he needed as an outpatient. He could feel himself falling into an acute psychotic state and knew he needed help. Mental health services were underfunded. But he knew that the police had funding. They would respond to a broken window and arrest him. He could be in jail, out of the cold, and eventually get the attention of psychiatric inpatient services. I have cared for patients with diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic health disorders who likewise sought arrest to get the care they needed.
What does “defund the police” really mean?
I’ve thought of these former patients as I’ve heard the calls to ‘defund the police’. Taxpayers seem willing to fund needed care for prisoners that law abiding citizens can’t seem to afford. Surely, we would all be better off if we were to ensure that every American had the health care services they need. Every American then could pursue life, liberty, and happiness in ways that help themselves and society. Why do we “enroll” the patients through the criminal justice system? I am all in favor of “defunding the police” if what that means is that we repurpose tax funds. We currently spend for an ineffective police response to chronic illness, addiction, substance abuse, and mental health problems. We could instead use those funds to beef up our public health services which actually can reduce problems for society.
A health care system that funds a doctor for every American household could be far less expensive and more effective.
Americans subsidize “private” for-profit, employer-based insurance with $500 billion each year in tax credits. Private corporate-run health insurance excludes one in three Americans needed health care services. Eliminating this industry would both reduce health system overhead by $600 billion per year and relieve Americans of the $500 billion per year tax credit subsidy. There would then be enough money to provide a doctor for every American household.
A non-profit health cooperative
What we in Utah could create instead is a non-profit health cooperative. which would receive all current health care tax revenues (federal, state, and local). It would assume responsibility for funding all necessary health services for all Utah residents. It would free us from many of the onerous problems in American health care. These problems include poor quality care and personal bankruptcy due to injury or illness. It would relieve our police departments from having to bear the first responder burdens of dealing with the mentally ill.
This moment in the history
Let’s use this moment in the history of the American search for social justice to demand that Congress get the federal government out of the way of a state solution to our health system problems. Support only those Congressional candidates who endorse and will co-sponsor The State Based Universal Health Care Act.
Joseph Jarvis was born in Tucson, Arizona. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University in 1978 and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Utah in 1986. He also earned an MD in 1982. Jarvis’s career experience includes working at the University of Nevada School of Medicine and the National Jewish Center in Denver. He also served as a medical officer for OSHA and the Director of Medical Affairs and Special Programs in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.