What’s The Biggest Threat to Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Recovery?

The most serious threat to psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery for loved ones with psychiatric disabilities is…

  • Not the insufficiency of new antipsychotic medications…
  • Not the shortage of adequate supportive housing…
  • Not the shortage of residential treatment beds in state hospitals…
  • Not the stigma against those with psychiatric disabilities…

It is the grave underfunding of public sector pensions. These are the promised retirement payments to state workers, e.g., policemen, firemen, county workers, civil service employees, and public school teachers.

PsychOdyssey’s home state of New Jersey is in the worst condition. New Jersey’s public pensions are underfunded to the tune of $44 billion! The problem first arose when politicians, principally Democratic politicians corruptly catering to their public employee union partisans, enacted such public pensions on terms usually more generous than private sector ones. Then, the problem worsened under a succession of governors from both parties who diverted state budget funds away from the heavy pension funding obligations to other short-term needs.

The problem is critical because such underfunded pensions will at some point surely erupt as a huge political issue. When this volcano explodes, the political lava spewing from it will force diversion of state funds away from critical social service entities like the NJ Division of Mental Health Services.  This will bring excruciating pain to the State of New Jersey’s fiscal condition, the public credit rating of which is already rated 49th out of 50th in the country–and to the citizens of New Jersey, already the highest taxed in the country.

With no borrowing capacity and no political ability to raise taxes, how will the New Jersey state government solve this crisis? Perhaps it will cynically allow the problem to get even worse, so that its pension system becomes “too big to fail”. Then it might turn to the Federal government for a bail out. Bankrupt Puerto Rico is pursuing this path right now.

If New Jersey pursues that corrupt calculus, it may have to stand in line behind many other unfunded public pensions of other bankrupt cities, counties, and states pursuing the same corrupt strategy. (Besides Puerto Rico, consider Stockton, CA, Detroit, MI, and the State of Illinois…) And how will–or can–the United States government respond? The United States currently owes $19 trillion of debt, which has doubled in the last 8 years. Who will lend us such enormous money to fund all our unfunded pension liabilities at a time when our country is already so massively in debt? China?

Families of loved ones with psychiatric disabilities must remain clear-eyed, vigilant, and vocal about forthcoming state legislatrive initiatives. Programs upon which they depend, such as supporting housing, PACT services, outpatient programs, and, most of all, Medicaid, will be affected.

Below is a 2 minute video from nj.com explaining New Jersey’s pension crisis:


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