Standing up for the mentally ill, when the government won't

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2007

As a native Alaskan with a severely mentally ill grown son, I am frustrated and embarrassed that mentally ill adults within our community have all become 3-ton elephants wandering throughout our community.

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My frustration stems from: Having no psychiatric treatment within reach of the Interior; navigating a health care system that is broken; and learning that some elected officials are roadblocks to mental health services. Alaskans with diabetes or cancer deserve appropriate medical care, and so do those stricken with Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorder. Untreated, mentally ill adults spiral into unemployment, self medication, crime, and suicide. However, with treatment they can contribute positively to our community.

It embarrasses me when reading about former Mayor Jim Hayes misusing grant money intended to help our children; listening to state Rep. Jay Ramras tell me mentally ill adults should be jailed; and realizing U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is asking me if mentally ill adults can be treated without doctors. Such behavior and naive statements don't reduce Alaska's suicide rate (second highest in the U.S.); and won't prepare Alaska to care for our veterans suffering from brain injuries and psychological trauma received while serving in Iraq.

I recently queried a state employee within the Northern Regional Office of the Department of Health and Social Service about how I could get help for my mentally ill son. The response was, "You should sue the state. I think you would have a real good case."

I don't have the wherewithal to sue the state of Alaska. However, I do have the courage to publicly ask that we all stand up and say, "We care and we will help some of the least among us because it is right thing to do."

Valerie J. Dewey

Fairbanks



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