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Funding Proper Mental Health Treatment

July 26, 2002

Re "Fair Deals for Mentally Ill," editorial, July 21: The problem with giving money to the mental health sector is that it is like buying junk bonds. At best it is a risky and poor investment. Even when state hospitals were given government carte blanche in the '60s, there was no guarantee that anybody committed, willingly or involuntarily, would emerge "cured." In fact, the overwhelming majority who somehow made it through the "cuckoo's nest" gantlet were not unlike concentration camp survivors, so beaten down by psychiatric abuses that they were far worse off than before they were committed.

I would prefer to see hard evidence of sweeping reform in the mental health community before I would agree with contributing even one penny through my tax dollars or insurance premiums. Reform would consist of many things. I'd like to see hard evidence of patients being treated with dignity and respect and the use of harmful psychiatric drugs and electric shock eliminated.

Jeff Farrow

Tujunga

*

Your editorial is right on target in decrying the tragically underfunded programs that leave thousands of Californians to wander our streets, each lost in a terrible, private abyss of serious mental illness. But this is not the case for more than 100 adolescents at Metropolitan State Hospital. They had no other haven after repeatedly striking out in foster care and group homes. Now they're receiving quality care and treatment by skilled, state-licensed staff.

It's unfortunate that you tied your otherwise insightful comments to unfounded allegations that Metropolitan's employees have been improperly restraining or medicating patients. Restraints are used not for the convenience of staff but when psychotic, combative patients attack others. This is no different than when any nonhospitalized person becomes violent. And today's medications have done wonders in helping people who otherwise would remain devastated by their illnesses.

Tony Myers

President, California Assn.

of Psychiatric Technicians

Sacramento

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