Saturday, June 25, 2011

How Budget Cuts Affect the Mentally Ill

A letter to the editor published in the June 24th edition of The New York Times:
To the Editor:

A Schizophrenic, a Slain Worker, Troubling Questions” (front page, June 17):

The story of Deshawn James Chappell, a man with schizophrenia accused of killing one of his caregivers, is a tragedy that could have been prevented if Mr. Chappell had been receiving the proper treatment. However, only a very small percentage of people who live with schizophrenia ever become violent, and then it is usually when the treatment system fails them and they discontinue their medications.

Our mental health care system, which is reeling from repeated state, county and federal budget cuts, is simply too overwhelmed to provide all of the compassionate and quality treatment that patients need. It is imperative that we as a society prioritize the treatment of psychiatric disorders to align with the high prevalence of these disabling conditions.

Doing so would ultimately cost less than warehousing and treating people in jails and prisons, where those with mental illnesses all too often end up.

JOHN OLDHAM [pictured]
American Psychiatric Association
Arlington, Va., June 20, 2011

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