Letters to the Editor

Maria Saunders: Hospitals, not prisons, for mentally ill

I appreciated your Aug. 10 editorial “ Bars to care.” I am retired after 34 years in psychiatric nursing. I live in the neighborhood where Dr. Feng Liu was recently murdered.

The young men suspected of having committed this killing have a history of criminal activity and were in a pre-trial release program. Pre-trial release programs exist because our jails and prisons are overcrowded. They are crowded with the mentally ill in need of humane, consistent, long-term, community-based treatment. People with a mental illness are negatively affected by incarceration.

Yet because our mental health system is failing them, they are subjected to incarceration, and other, more dangerous people are allowed to be on pre-trial release. Our community would be safer and healthier if we focused on high-quality treatment of people who are diagnosed with a mental illness.

Perhaps the people charged with killing Liu would have been in a jail or prison if they weren’t overcrowded with people needing mental health treatment.

A large number of people go to emergency rooms for treatment of mental illness because we have failed to provide quality, compassionate mental health care in our communities.

Maria Saunders, Chapel Hill

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