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LETTER: Column on cops, mental health raises important issues

Updated September 15, 2020 - 9:53 pm

I much welcomed the Sept. 10 opinion piece by Clarence Page, “Are we asking the police to do too much?” It was an overdue and necessary topic. But it also segues into a broader concern. In referencing the increasingly violent and tragic confrontations throughout our country between police and many citizens, Mr. Page sheds light on a major societal failure. That is the lack of adequate mental health services.

Lack of funding is the eternal and infamous story. So what happens to the poor soul who has lost control of his mental faculties? Many are left abandoned with nowhere to go. At best, they may be provided psychotropic drugs. As Mr. Page points out, all too often the police, by default, have to deal with this difficult situation. In any case, there is a severe lack of funding to help this desperate population.

I am familiar with their plight because, while working with a state agency, I played a required role in the deinstitutionalization of mental health institutions in the 1980s. I had concerns then, as I do today, over the lack of adequate hospital care for this population.

I guess funding was needed in more essential areas — such as the military. Somehow this reasoning doesn’t comport with safety for our citizens. We can provide much better safety for our citizens if, instead of pouring money into the bottomless pit of the military, we provide adequate health care for all, to include well-maintained and therapeutic mental health facilities, much like those available in the military and to our veterans. Redirected funding should also go to offset the cost of higher education in the health care fields to include funds to alleviate the physician shortage. We can do better.

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