Reforming mental commitment statutes
From Cato Unbound comes "A Libertarian's Proposal to Reform Involuntary Commitment".
"Because of the inadequacies of our current civil commitment practices, 5,000 individuals with mental illness commit suicide annually. Another 200,000 are homeless. Of course, those are not primary concerns to libertarians, most of whom believe that individuals have a right to kill themselves or live homeless.
But as a result of our current restrictive commitment procedures, persons with mental illness kill 1,000 individuals annually, roughly 10% of all homicides. The most likely victims are family members, police, and sheriffs. ...
Because of restrictive civil commitment laws, individuals with serious mental illness are regularly shot by law enforcement who believe their erratic and irrational behavior is putting their own safety or that of the public in immediate danger. People with severe mental illnesses are killed by police in justifiable homicides at a rate nearly four times greater than the general public."
I can remember back to the beginnings of the deinstitutionalization movement in the late 60s and early 70s. Back then, commitment was much more broadly allowed, but actual treatment (as in medications) was in its infancy. The result was that patients were "warehoused" unless and until they spontaneously became sane, which wasn't very likely. Today the prospects are quite different, hundreds of medications in the spectrum, and the main problem is getting a person to stay on the meds. But commitment has become so rare that people don't think of it as a possibility. The guy here who shot Rep. Giffords -- his college was so scared of him they banned him from coming there, and sent security guards to his home to notify him. But nobody thought of calling the police to take him to the psych ward for a check out.
As Clayton Cramer has pointed out, the seriously insane were largely moved from mental institutions to jail.