APA's far-reaching white paper titled "A Vision for a Mental Heath System" loudly rings the alarm bell, warning that our mental health system is crumbling (Psychiatric News
, May 16). This is further echoed in the message from the President's New Freedom Commission that the "mental health system is in shambles." As a consequence of this, an increasing social and financial toll is exacted, with more and more of the seriously mentally ill entering into the criminal justice system. These developments are largely due to the lack of treatment resources in the community. When mental health dollars disappear, the shift of patients from necessary and appropriate care and from hospital beds to prison beds is not a new phenomenon. Penrose described this dynamic in 1939 in his comparative study of European statistics of mental disease and crime, published in the British Journal of Medical Psychology
(volume XVIII, pages 1-15) in the article "Disease and Crime: Outline of a Comparative Study of European Statistics." Unhappily for our society, fiscal planners have not learned from history.