To the Editor:
I just read Donna Bennett’s letter to the editor titled “Mentally ill often neglected,” and I agree with her assessment that our country, state and county has not dealt with the problem in a viable, systematic way.
Indeed, after reading a column by Jason Akst last August, I had intended to respond to our local mental health concerns, but I let the opportunity pass me by. With the Newtown tragedy, I feel now is the time to talk about mental health and focus directly on our community, especially since the Singer facility in Rockford has been closed as well as our local hospital facilities.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report discussed in Akst’s article, “the most common barrier to receiving treatment among these adults was the inability to afford the cost of mental health care.”
I sit on the DeKalb County Mental Health Board, and for almost two years we tried to help the county cut costs and we combined two social service units to be covered by one professional administrator.
Progress was made by the board and director, but just a few months ago the board voted to return to a full-time director understanding that there is a growing need locally. Indeed, suicides are increasing in our community.
It goes beyond those returning from military service. Perhaps this is the time for the social services agencies, the schools, the health complex and the political entities to come together to help solve basic problems and enhance our mental health care in DeKalb County. Maybe the Newtown tragedy will not only help us get a rational gun policy, but it will help us and other communities better focus on the mental health needs in our communities from pre-school through old age.