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Psychiatry and the homeless mentally ill: a reply to Dr. Lamb
Am J Psychiatry 1992;149:951-957.
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Abstract

Homeless mentally ill persons are highly visible subjects of ongoing public discussion and potent symbols of a host of contemporary social problems. They present psychiatry with a scientific challenge that calls for further elucidation of the sources of their mental illness and for fashioning possible solutions to their problems. They also present a moral challenge that requires psychiatrists to acknowledge the cultural, political, legal, and economic context of the mental problems of the homeless in the course of deciding what should be done to help them. H. Richard Lamb has proposed a program of aggressive outreach and psychiatric hospitalization for the homeless mentally ill. The authors believe that his proposal misconstrues the problems and needs of homeless mentally ill individuals; it would also needlessly infringe upon their freedom, further stigmatize them, and probably not help them. The authors offer an alternative understanding of the plight of the homeless mentally ill which places their problems within a larger context of social trends and domestic issues that society has been reluctant to confront. Psychiatrists can help the homeless mentally ill by championing their liberty rights and by focusing public discourse on the broad national need for improved access to medical and psychiatric care.

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