Involuntary mental health treatment is needed [Letter]

Kudos to the Baltimore Sun very for your well reported article, "Bill supports involuntary mental health treatment" (March 10). The gist of the last 20 years of background on this topic is that when the legislators closed down the institutions across the country, the money "saved" was supposed to go to fund the "assertive community treatment centers" and those monies never reached the communities.

Yes, these programs may be expensive, but due to the past 20 years of non-treatment, we now have over 50 percent of mentally ill people self-medicating with alcohol or drugs and now have many dual diagnosis cases. In addition, police officers are being used as social services workers and face dangers every day when they deal with the many, many untreated cases across the nation. One family in another state recently couldn't get treatment for their schizophrenic son because professionals said, he wasn't ill enough. After he murdered two police officers, he will now spend his life in jail, still untreated. Those with bi-polar, schizophrenic, personality disorder, etc. diagnoses only get much worse and more dangerous when not required to take meds (which are not perfect, either).

A choice must be made. It is nice for mental health officials to say we should "engage" them rather than forcing them to take meds; however, these same people sound naive when discussing the issues with those of us who have worked on the ground floor for years and tell you that either we pay for enforced treatment — meds and outpatient therapy — or face many more deaths on the street and in private homes from those in the throes of a full-blown psychotic break.

Perhaps these so-called officials have not done hands-on work. Doctors and nurses no longer get the 6 month internships in mental hospitals that were standard in the 1960s. When visiting one of my clients in the hospital two years ago, I had to train the nurses in how to interact with and handle a person with disabilities — mental and physical.

An attorney friend of mine states that it is going to take a huge lawsuit against legislators, doctors, nurses, and health care institutions before the powers that be face the choice between maintaining well-run sanitariums or well-run outpatient treatment centers and are willing to pay for this. Most Americans still don't realize (and don't want to face) the massive issue developing until it hits home with them — there is not a family on the planet that does not have some family member with an issue — for all the NIMBYs out there.

Mary "Celie" Hanauer, Abingdon

To respond to this letter, send an email to Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad