In one of the most striking tangents of the night, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy even advocated for reopening “mental health institutions” that have closed over the decades as the country sought to cut costs (starting in the Reagan administration) and tried — but has largely failed — to invest in more humane home- and community-based services. He framed putting more people with mental health problems into those institutions as one of the most important ways to address crime.
“Just over the same period that we have closed mental health institutions, we have seen a spike in violent crime. Do we have the spine to bring them back?” he said. “I think we should. As president, I will.”
I have interviewed people who were subjected to the cruel treatment that was often commonplace in the mental health asylums of old. The new mental health paradigm is focused much more on treating people where they are. While the US has struggled to erect a sufficient mental health system given the scale of the country’s needs, few people who work in the field would argue that a return to the institutions of that era is the recipe for fixing our mental health crisis.
But Ramaswamy, the biggest non-Trump sensation of the GOP primary so far, does. He even implicitly allowed that “drugging up people in those psychiatric institutions with Zoloft and Seroquel” would be part of the program (but not the only part; he also wants a return to the patriotism, faith, and family that he believes constitutes the American character).