Letters to the Editor

Liz Johnston: Bill aids mentally ill

I take issue with the writer of the Aug. 16 letter “No help at all” who criticized the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act for sending “mental health systems decades backward.” Our systems are already backward and in dire need of reform.

Rep. Tim Murphy, a clinical psychologist, spent a year studying our mental health system after Sandy Hook. He recognizes that mentally ill individuals have a right to treatment, yet their illness may prevent them from understanding they are ill and in need of treatment. If the individual is 18 and refuses help, there is nothing a parent can do, unless that individual becomes an “imminent danger” to himself or others.

Rather than “creating incentives for needless hospitalization,” the bill allows for involuntary hospitalization of certain individuals who have a severe and persistent “need for treatment” as determined by medical professionals. It does not “strip away privacy rights.” It allows physicians to disclose diagnoses and treatment plans to the person’s caretaker (usually a parent). Currently, HIPAA precludes disclosure without patient consent, making it impossible for parents to help enforce treatment.

The bill redirects funds to more inpatient beds, outpatient services, law enforcement training, tele-psychiatry for rural areas and medical research. This is an important bill.

Liz Johnston