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Closing ward would hurt patients

August 07, 2007

Re "Mental ward may be closed," Aug. 2

The stigma of a state hospital should not be attached to children who, like all children, derive and develop their identity from their environment. But shuttling these children to a privatized version of a mental health facility is not the cure; it may be just the opposite.

Private for-profit mental healthcare organizations that are often selected because they submit the lowest bid to the state are not held to the same standards of patient care found at state hospitals, nor are they scrutinized by outside agencies as often as state mental health agencies.

These combined facts are a recipe for neglect and exploitation of children. I pray that the state chooses a decent alternative for these children and doesn't just warehouse them into a cheap, jerry-built mental healthcare system.

Mark Alan Tackett


The closure of the juvenile wing of Metropolitan State Hospital is but a continuation of the de-institutionalization process that began in 1969 with the passage of the California Community Mental Health Services Act. The philosophy was to provide for services at the local level so that people with mental disabilities could be treated in the community. Although the act passed, the funding never followed. The closure of yet another state facility will further exacerbate a problem that has been long acknowledged and long neglected.

We have not really de-institutionalized our mentally ill, we have simply relocated them. You will find them on skid row in Los Angeles, in the Los Angeles County Jail, in our state prisons and juvenile correctional facilities. It now appears that we will even have more of the seriously mentally ill in our juvenile facilities, and this is particularly distressing to me because I run those facilities.

I am not advocating a return to institutionalization for the mentally ill, but the return of some humanitarian approach to the way we care for them. It is inappropriate for the state to simply shift this responsibility to local government without adequate funding or resources.

Robert B. Taylor


Los Angeles County

Probation Department


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