Ron DeSantis breaks with Ronald Reagan on mental health institutions

DeSantis press SC
'We deinstitutionalized some 30 or 40 years ago. You know, I'm not sure that that was the right thing to do.'

In Iowa’s Winneshiek County at a Never Back Down tour stop, Ron DeSantis criticized a policy imposed by former President Ronald Reagan.

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Reagan repealed legislation championed by Jimmy Carter that supported mental health institutions.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.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Truth Teller

    August 4, 2023 at 12:11 pm

    Homeless is a HUGE issue in your home city of Tallahassee, Gov. Yet you worry more about BS, fake culture wars than doing actual work that helps Floridians.

    • Josh Green

      August 4, 2023 at 12:29 pm

      Culture Wars are easy, and they rile up the rubes in lockstep behind you. Doing actual governing is hard work.

      It’s funny that a guy who doesn’t do any governing thinks he can be President. Adorable really.

    • Lori B

      August 4, 2023 at 4:57 pm

      He’s too busy chasing the limelight to do anything for US.

  • Tjb

    August 4, 2023 at 1:40 pm

    RON, Have you ever looked at the homeless situation in Florida.
    If you quit only living in your head, you might notice the real problems that exist in Florida.
    Also, how long has the hate mongers, Christina Pushaw, been living in your and Casey head?

  • JD

    August 4, 2023 at 1:58 pm

    This is one of the few things I agree with DeSantis about. It is one of many Reagan’s black eyes.

    Let’s see if it’s just lip service for Florida and if something is done, how effective it is.

    How about some positive results Ronald?

  • Silly Wabbit

    August 4, 2023 at 2:06 pm

    He kwazy.

    • Dont Say FLA

      August 4, 2023 at 4:38 pm

      That’s why this can be seen as Rhonda trying arrangement accommodations for themself after their raging lands them back in Florida unemployable and, eventually, unemployed.

  • Dale A Arnold

    August 4, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    Yeah homelessness is Liberal problem..?
    He can’t talk serious about an issues like this with out us vs them nonsense! He is no leader!!!!!
    What he running for president of Red states minus they’re blue cities?

  • My Take

    August 4, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    Speaking of crazy people, I wonder how DeSSantis’s stooges are progressing in the new plot to install a modern Caligula as FAU president?

  • Thom

    August 4, 2023 at 9:12 pm

    This is a frequent liberal attempt to smear Reagan and rewrite history, ie claiming many of today’s problems can be traced back to Reagan. People are rarely institutionalized now because the courts have implemented a legal standard for involuntary commitment that is almost impossible to meet which is that the subject must be shown by clear and convincing evidence to present an eminent threat of harm to themselves or others. The ACLU, a left wing group, waged a years long series of legal battles to impose this on the country. Availability of federal funding had next to nothing to do with it. Mental illness mixed with cheap and readily available drugs is a catastrophic recipe for a society.

    • Mark

      August 4, 2023 at 10:43 pm

      Thank you for broad generalizations and no facts.

      ” In 1981 President Ronald Reagan, who had made major efforts during his Governorship to reduce funding and enlistment for California mental institutions, pushed a political effort through the U.S. Congress to repeal most of MHSA. The MHSA was considered landmark legislation in mental health care policy.”,in%20mental%20health%20care%20policy.

      This shifted mental health care to a state issue. And many states, like my Michigan, gutted the state programs.

      Mental Health patients don’t matter to Republicans like John Engler, because they cost money, but don’t have any lobbying firm representing them. It also allows funding to shift to LEO agencies who, golly gee, jail and sometimes kill these people.

      As for the cheap drugs, agreed. The fact of the state supporting liquor stores, allowing to many folks to self medicate, instead providing mental health care is repellent.

    • My Take

      August 5, 2023 at 3:15 am

      The readily available drugs were the psychotherapy drugs. Their success allowed pòls to claim institutioñs were no longèr neçessary. So patients were pushed into the streets with prescriptions. What was needed were strong outpatient institutions. Failure in public health. But the budget boys won.

  • Karen S

    August 6, 2023 at 4:25 pm

    The feds just forced Ronnie to deinstatutionalize children with severe medical needs. It was Florida’s policy to remove these kids from families and slam them into nursing facilities if their families couldn’t pay for their care. Many parents had to travel hundreds of miles to see their kids Now moms & dads will get the money they need for kid’s care when it’s locally available.
    Deinstitutionalized, Ron? More like.

Comments are closed.


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