Asked about gun rights during a Q&A session, DeSantis pivoted to questioning Reagan’s decision in the 1980s to close mental hospitals, which preceded an uptick in the homeless population.
“If you look at what happens at a police station when people are coming into the criminal justice system, there’s a huge percentage of these people that have mental health issues and it’s not even, like, a big shooting that gets all the headlines, just regular crimes. So many people, we used to have more of an institutional process where people would be institutionalized, who couldn’t function in society,” DeSantis said.
“We deinstitutionalized some 30 or 40 years ago. You know, I’m not sure that that was the right thing to do,” DeSantis added. “I see all these homeless in Los Angeles and San Francisco and some of these other liberal cities, they’re doing drugs or doing all this, but their mental health is ultimately the root of this. It’s behavior, it’s not that there’s not enough jobs or anything like that.”
Reagan repealed legislation championed by Jimmy Carter that supported mental health institutions. The Mental Health Systems Act authorized grants to public and nonprofit private community mental health centers for operational costs, with an eye toward helping the “chronically mentally ill.” It arose from work during Carter’s single term, via a presidential commission on mental health.
Reagan instead provided block grants to the states at reduced levels, amounting to 75% to 80% of what they would have gotten under the Carter framework.
DeSantis did not advocate for a return to federal policy driving mental health institutions in Iowa Friday. Instead, he recommended being more “forward leaning” in schools, even though he warned of potential ideological issues.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen, like, the mental health people try to use that to impose leftism,” DeSantis said. “Are you kidding me? No, you don’t do that. You got to do it straight up and it’s got to be about the well-being of the youth.”
The Governor also denounced social media, suggesting that when the DeSantis children are old enough for phones, they may be stuck on flip phones rather than smart devices.