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Speaking out, Dec. 17 edition

Here's a piece I submitted to my local newspaper, challenging our area's congressman to find more money for mental health treatment programs:


Tuesday’s Times Herald contained an account of Congressman Tom Reed’s reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders. The story quotes him as saying killers in such instances are “lunatics,” and if increased federal spending on mental health services is required, it should come from money now being wasted in the federal budget.

The word “if” is not open for debate. The National Institute for Mental Health reports more than 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says less than one-third of adults and less than one-half of children are treated for their disorders in a given year.

Predictably and appropriately, the Sandy Hook massacre has ignited another national debate on the use and possession of firearms. However, Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News medical team, wrote Monday, “Too many guns isn’t the issue; too little mental health care is.”

Dr. Ablow continued, “There is no system in place—at all—that routes very sick mentally ill individuals, especially those at risk for violence, to forensic psychiatry professions truly skilled to evaluate them.”

It’s important to note Dr. Ablow isn’t saying all people with mental health disorders are dangerous. He is writing about “those among us who suffer with incapacitating symptoms of psychiatric illness and whose suffering can—only in a very, very small percentage of cases, thankfully—lead to terrible violence.”

An article by David Kopel in Monday’s Wall Street Journal echoes Dr. Ablow:

“In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution. But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated. According to a study released in July by the Treatment Advocacy Center, the number of state hospital beds in America per capita has plummeted to 1850 levels, or 14.1 beds per 100,000 people.”

This is a national disgrace.

In light of this huge need, Congressman Reed (according to Tuesday’s story) thinks enough money for more mental health treatment programs can be squeezed from waste, fraud and abuse in the federal budget. All of our elected officials are accountable for tracking down this waste—including the congressman.

I challenge Congressman Reed to find the money. I challenge him to go after it with the same zeal he will show in supporting his vision of Second Amendment rights in the wake of Sandy Hook. Find the money, Congressman Reed, and when you find it, report back to your constituents on how it will be used.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
nodressrehersal
Dec. 19th, 2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
*Standing ovation* Bravo, very well written.
patrick_vecchio
Dec. 19th, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Just getting started.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 19th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
Excellent piece! I was particularly disgusted by Reed's use of the term "lunatic." It struck me as derogatory, much like referring to epileptic seizures as "fits." NOT politically correct, and so 20th-century!
t.c.
patrick_vecchio
Dec. 19th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
And let's not forget he supported the Ryan budget. That's a pretty fair indicator on where he stands re: public health.
gregorypeccary
Dec. 19th, 2012 10:54 pm (UTC)
Don't expect a response from Mr. Reed any time soon. With a 2 year term, congressmen are seemingly always running for office and living in the now; long term visionary thinking is not normally in the cards.
patrick_vecchio
Dec. 19th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
He'll probably be re-elected until he chooses not to run again. This portion of New York state is bedrock Republican. But even if that weren't the case, I will continue to press him.
sahlah
Dec. 20th, 2012 03:39 am (UTC)
“lunatics"...

seriously? Could he show less understanding if he tried?

Good piece - I hope you get a reply.
patrick_vecchio
Dec. 20th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
This guy supported the Ryan budget—in fact, I think he might have said it didn't go far enough—so I think his needle's on E on the "understanding" gauge.

Even if he does reply, he hasn't heard the last of me.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 20th, 2012 11:40 am (UTC)
Your letter captures my sentiments and it is apparent that living in "Gun Country" our area politicians do not want to alienate that voting bloc to the point where they actually court that constituency. I have come to the conclusion that pols like Reed have missed the meaning of the rights issue. Gun rights are a part of a larger issue which can only be described as human rights; the human right to adequate health care and providers for mental health treatment, the human right for all citizens to feel a sense of security in their homes, schools, and communities, and yes, even the human right to bear arms in a responsible and appropriate manner. Like all of our political issues the art of compromise is non-existent, the extremes for both sides of the arguments do not accept a mediation to the issues. It is quite ironic as factions calling for stricter tighter controls and services are countered by other factions running with all due speed to their local Wal Mart to purchase a Bush Master semi-automatic weapon before they are gone and banned,
patrick_vecchio
Dec. 20th, 2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
I like the way you extend the issue of gun rights into a human rights issue.
penshark
Dec. 21st, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
I saw the piece in tonight's paper. I hope people read it with even a fraction of the thought and consideration you put into writing it.
patrick_vecchio
Dec. 21st, 2012 10:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Carole. I was happy with how quickly Jim got it in, and he also caught an embarrassing mistake in the last graf.

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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