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Aftermath of a tragedy

August 27, 2008

Re "Deaths at rehab hospital in Pasadena draw scrutiny," Aug. 21

I find your article troubling. It seems obvious that no direct or even indirect relationship between Dr. Drew Pinsky and the deaths or rape exists. Yet the tone of the article is incredibly accusatory.

By repeating the working association between Pinsky and the hospital, and establishing it early in the article, your writers make it clear that their focus is not on the loss of life but on the sensationalism of a celebrity in hot water.

I find it shameful to use celebrity as a vehicle to attract readership to what is a heartbreaking story about the failure of caregivers to save those who are deeply afflicted by addiction.

Jonathan Brill

Los Angeles

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Unexpected deaths and the rape of a teenage patient in a psychiatric facility should draw more than scrutiny.

Any well-run hospital evidences consistently high-quality care with few, if any, lapses. High standard-of-care practices have helped countless thousands of individuals and their families across the land.

When traumatic events occur in a mental health/substance abuse program, the breakdown usually extends well beyond the immediate crisis. The truth directs our attention toward insurance companies and the long reach of their managed-care arms. Efforts to increase employer and consumer healthcare premiums, promise benefits and then gut delivery systems deserve regulatory inquiry.

Patients and their families need their insurer to be there, and not to bail or balk when they are in need. Hospitals are expensive because they are labor intensive and employ highly trained professionals. Many psychologists and psychiatrists will not even maintain hospital staff privileges anymore for fear that the average length of stay reimbursed by insurers will be too short to offer high-quality services.

There is a way out. The upcoming federal parity law would match mental health benefits with those provided physical disorders. Also, the government should monitor and accredit insurers as they do healthcare facilities. Otherwise, insurers may continue to shirk their benefit obligations.

Marc D. Skelton

Laguna Niguel

The writer is a clinical psychologist.

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