Email letters, Jan. 10, 2013

Remove mental health stigma to create healthier communities
 
With the start of a new year, let us redouble our efforts to address the lessons of 2012. The pain is still fresh, and we at Colorado West join the rest of the nation in mourning the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. This is yet another tragedy in a country that has recently experienced too many.

There has been much speculation regarding exactly what needs to happen within our society, from calls for gun control and reducing violence in games and media to increasing armed security in public places. As an organization immersed in the mission of improving individual and community life, we must draw attention to the call to attend to mental health. A stronger commitment to vital mental health services is long overdue.
Several of the recent mass shootings have common elements. The shooter is reported to have been isolated and disconnected from neighbors and community. Several of them experienced mental health concerns. How do we create healthy communities in which people, even those with a mental illness, are connected and have supports? 

To achieve any kind of success, stigma must be addressed. We know that in this country one in five people experiences mental illness. Statistically, people with mental illnesses are no more violent than people without.  Unfortunately, these kinds of tragic events unfairly and harmfully tar people with mental illnesses as inherently dangerous. In fact, these Americans not only share the nation’s horror at these events but also bear the additional weight of false stereotypes and discrimination needlessly reinforced by these perceptions.
Stigma not only contributes to incorrect assumptions about people with a mental illness, it also contributes to the real problem of gross underfunding of community-based mental health services—not just traditional therapy and psychiatric services, but the full continuum of mobile crisis services, assertive community treatment, peer supports and long-term housing.

Can we face stigma and create natural supports in the community for people with a mental illness?  Can mental illness be recognized as an illness like other conditions such as cancer or diabetes? 

Another step in the right direction is developing an integrated care system so that mental health services are available in a primary care setting, thus decreasing stigma and offering early intervention and prevention.
We challenge every individual to face and eradicate the self-defeating stigma of mental illness and to advocate for a universal inclusion of behavioral health services in the Patient Centered Medical Home and the Accountable Care Organizations under development. Existing regulatory and accreditation standards for PCMHs and ACOs are inadequate to ensure meaningful inclusion of behavioral health services in those emerging settings. Is this also a result of stigma?

People with mental illness can be and are a part of a healthy community. This tragedy and the many tragedies before it call for all of us to work as one to create lasting solutions and support those with mental illness.

When speaking to the public, I often ask how many people know a family member, friend or neighbor who lives with a mental illness. Typically every hand in the room is raised. Please do your part and change perception. Please address stigma and befriend a person who has a mental illness. Together we can create healthy communities.

SHARON RAGGIO, LMFT, LPC, MBA
President & CEO, Colorado West, Inc.
Grand Junction

Daily taking of lives by abortion is as unthinkable as Connecticut tragedy

Once again an individual has done the unthinkable. He entered an elementary classroom and killed innocent little children. It is truly unthinkable and hurts the heart of every American. I just can’t imagine anyone being that cruel and heartless. My heart breaks for the families of those precious babies.

What I find amazing, however, is the hypocrisy of it all. Voices now scream from their soapboxes that we need strong gun controls. Yet a lot of these same voices again scream from their soapboxes that abortion must remain legal and available and our tax dollars must allow abortions to continue. What about these innocent lives? Every 96 seconds a baby is removed from the womb. Where is this outrage? Why are the voices so loud about gun control and silent about the abortionist’s knife?

When are we going to have a real discussion about the killing of innocent people? It starts when a nation does not value life. We have taught that certain life is expendable and is perfectly OK to do away with. After all, it is legal to kill innocent babies through abortion. Seriously, why would they now believe it isn’t OK to enter a schoolroom, mall or a church to kill innocent people? But let’s now stop individuals from having guns. What total hypocrisy!

A nation that believes that some life is expendable is a nation that will believe that all life is expendable. We must be outraged when any innocent life is taken, not just when it fits our political dogma.

LYNDA BAXTER
Grand Junction

John Justman slighted in coverage of commissioners’ swearing-in ceremony

Breathtaking! I was utterly stunned by the glaring omission of John Justman’s image on the cover of Wednesday’s paper. The casual reader would have concluded that we have one new county commissioner, because after all, consumers look at the pictures before —and if – they read the text.

I have great respect for Gretel. She ordinarily does an excellent job, but the picture of Rose Pugliese, who is wonderful and will be a great asset to our county, with fellow commissioner Justman barely discernible in the background, comprises a major failing on the part of the editorial staff at the Sentinel.

This picture is an insult to Justman and your readers, and it further harms your already compromised reputation as an unbiased and viable news source.  You may want to correct this glaring error by following up with another picture that affirms that Justman is our other new county commissioner.

The Mesa County GOP worked hard to elect both of these wonderful, big-hearted and highly competent county commissioners. Please correct this insulting omission and in the process do a little damage control to repair your paper’s failing reputation.

MARJORIE HAUN

Grand Junction

Too many citizens look to government for salvation

Sigmund Freud said in 1932 that when someone insists that mere possession of a gun would compel the owner to use it, that insistence said much about the one talking and almost nothing about the one being spoken of.  This is just about the most reasonable thing Freud said.

The Second Amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, says all that needs to be said.

But Madison, who introduced the amendment in 1789, did write in the Federalist Papers that what set America apart from most nations in Europe is that our government was not afraid of an armed citizenry (Federalist 46). First our elected officials set up a standing army, contrary to the founding wisdom.

Now they insist the people are not to be trusted and the Second Amendment must be infringed upon. (Note: When we were governed by God and one nation under God, we had no need for threat of force or for ever-increasing government regulation and threat of the bayonet.)

Now we are no longer that nation of freemen, but too many have chosen to make the government their god and their salvation. We have traded our liberties for the mere promise of a little temporary security—and deserve neither liberty nor security.

ROBERT J. BURKHOLDER

Fruita

King’s costly DUI bill relies on debatable data

Your editorial urging passage of law enforcement contractor Sen. Steve King’s DUI bill seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to a lack of facts. Your statement about putting marijuana users on notice that our “state is serious out stopping people from driving while high” is laughable.

King’s bill is prohibitively expensive to enact, and his cosponsor, former prosecutor Mark Waller, and he watered down their bill because they haven’t proven beyond reasonable doubt their level of influence is impairment in all cases.

In Charles Ashby’s article headlined “Watered-down stoned driving bill irks King, the senator states, “I strongly believe that there is plenty of science there that says 5 nanograms is a good standard.” I strongly believe that there is just as much science that says it’s not.  Remember, it couldn’t pass until last year when public input was not allowed. It’s easy to prove pseudo facts when no questions are addressed.

Waller says he has a sneaking suspicion the number of medical marijuana patients is going to drop drastically. Well, duh. Pay more than $100 for a doctor’s recommendation and a license placed in state records? His view doesn’t change the facts that illnesses and pain still remain and this law will inhibit medical marijuana patients.

It’s not imperative or more important. The current law is enforced just like alcohol. If you’re driving erratically and have THC in your system, you’re guilty. The very fact the bill allows a “rebuttable inference” shows questionable integrity. It also shows they are only open to victims proving their innocence if they can afford it, rather than their bill proving guilt. Guilty until proven innocent.

One way to stop innocence is make it to costly to prove. It seems ridiculous, as a roadside sobriety test should still be used as with alcohol. It’s a time-proven test that works.

RALPH HICKS
Clifton

Obamacare to increase paperwork, reduce seniors’ access to doctors

I heard a chilling comment on a radio show recently. A doctor was lamenting the regulations and paperwork he knows he’ll have to comply with when Obamacare takes effect in 2014. In the course of his interview he also expressed concern and worry for his patients, whom he says have been led to believe they may keep their present doctors. According to him, this is NOT true; both patients and doctors will eventually be assigned to various exchanges by the government.

I got an instant “sinking feeling” just thinking about the possibility of changing doctors again, particularly here, where a shortage of primary care doctors who will accept Medicare patients already exists. With the addition of more uninsured people in the valley, what will happen to our already understaffed system?

The episode also reminded me of the early days in my career when I needed to relocate and move away from my doctor. When I finally found another doctor, he refused to accept the test results of my previous doctor, forcing me to undergo many of the same tests again. It took a lot of time and money to make this happen.

So, in the long run one has to wonder if Obamacare will be beneficial at all for Medicare patients like me. If the old adage, “a high tide raises all boats” is true, then wouldn’t the opposite also be true? I see the dilution of the available doctor pool as something that will lower both the quantity and quality of all health care.

AL CARLEY
Grand Junction

Groups concerned about County Line parking could have acted sooner

Regarding the complaints by various groups about the County Line parking lot, did anyone try to stop people from using this parking lot? It was deemed unsafe by a number of people, yet people still park there. There’s a new parking lot a quarter mile or so down the road that looks very safe, and it’s away from the road, but you will have to find a new way to the trailhead.

I understand, however, what I do sometimes might not be the safest thing, and I try to make sure that I don’t put myself into harm’s way. 

The groups state that it’s unsafe and their appeals to the state and county went unheeded.  Did anyone post a sign up there stating this? Did anyone chain this off so no one could use it? Did these groups tell all their people not to use this pull-off because it is unsafe? Has anyone tried to close the trailhead? I’m sure plenty more trails have safer parking.

CURT CLAUSSEN

Grand Junction



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