SAN JOSE SPOTLIGHT: Ellenberg and Manley: Mental health and substance abuse as a public health crisis

We’ve seen the headlines and news reports, the social media posts and countless podcasts. COVID-19 has shined light on the existing gaps in our systems that have left us all exposed. But for decades before coronavirus was part of our lexicon, these gaps began to manifest on our streets, in our schools, in our neighborhoods and in our homes.

According to this CalMatters piece, one out of every six Californians suffers from some form of mental illness—one out of 24 with such acuity that makes it nearly impossible to function independently, and “a third of adults who received county mental health services for serious mental illnesses had a co-occurring substance use disorder.”

Furthermore, about a third of our homeless population suffers from serious mental illness. In this state, and our nation, the largest psychiatric institutions aren’t even places of care—they are our jails and prisons, with nearly 30% of all those incarcerated receiving treatment.

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