As a parent of a child suffering for 14 years from a devastating severe mental illness — one that includes zero awareness and utter denial that the illness exists — I am bewildered why Maryland has failed to create an assisted outpatient treatment (community based) program ("Close the mental health revolving door," Dec. 29). The pendulum has swung so sharply so as to protect personal rights that we have failed to help those who need it the most. Should we not require persons be given the vaccinations that are part of life's medical treatment protocol? If a child says "no" — if a parent says "no" on behalf of their child who knows no better — should we not provide the proper care? Should we allow tuberculosis to go untreated; or allow those with severe Alzheimer's to refuse treatment to venture on foot without proper clothing into a blinding snowstorm in freezing temperatures?

My child has been hospitalized over 30 times in seven hospitals in four Maryland counties and Baltimore City — most often because we cannot get him timely treatment. Our family has been devastated emotionally and financially, and we are outcasts in our extended family because our child continues through the revolving door: hospitalization, release, hospitalization, release — for 14 years! Stigma grows with every hospitalization. Risk of tragedy grows with failure to treat timely. In a state where we fall woefully short in available beds for treatment, how can we not create such a program?

Not having assisted outpatient treatment is unfair to the person who unknowingly suffers from severe mental illness they never asked for in the first place, and it is unfair to their family. Our family suffers — our child suffers — because as a state we do not take the time, energy and resources to put proper programs in place. I pray change is coming.

Ed Kelley

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