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Caring for the Mentally Ill

February 08, 1987

This is in response to the excellent article written by Denise Hamilton (Jan. 5) regarding Department 95 of the Los Angeles Superior Court where hearings pertaining to mental competency are conducted.

Hamilton is to be commended for accurately describing the pathetic system we use in dealing with people with brain diseases. Through impartial documentation of court activities, she revealed the many problems encountered daily by mentally ill people and the judicial staff.

Although it must be difficult for judges to decide who should be hospitalized and who should be released, the real tragedy is that those who are discharged are turned out into a community that has little to offer for care and treatment.

The thousands of members in Los Angeles County of the family support group, the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, truly appreciate Hamilton's sensitive interpretation of the Lanterman, Petris, Short Act, which is California's mental health law. However, we take exception to the statement that many families use the court as a dumping ground because they tire of caring for their mentally ill relatives.

Apparently this is the opinion of Patients' Rights Advocate Barbara Demming Lurie of the county Department of Mental Health. We would like to correct the impression made by that statement by explaining that, in most instances, it is the lack of professional care outside the hospitals that forces families to seek hospitalization, not as a "dumping ground" but as a last resort in getting some form of treatment.

We in Alliance for the Mentally Ill work diligently to improve the quality of life for all mentally ill people and we resent any public statement that implies that families are not concerned.

ELSIE REDLINE

Pasadena

Redline is media watch chairman of the Los Angeles County Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

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