LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Our nation needs treatment

Our nation is plagued by several unsolved major systemic problems. Some are in the spotlight, like the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. But three recent front page stories, about the slayings of Molly Tibbett and the rape and murder of Celia Barquin Arozamena, the female golfer slain in broad daylight, and the remembrance of the Las Vegas mass shooting by Stephen Craig Paddock. (we still do not know the motive of this deranged mind) remind me of the huge problem we do not talk about: America’s neglect of our mentally ill.

We now know that the mass shooter in the Rite Aid distribution center had been diagnosed with a mental illness, and all of the aforementioned murderers were mentally ill.

We need federal and state governments to step up and acknowledge this huge plague, and do something about it. The primary purpose of government is to protect its citizens, yet people are dying every day due to government inaction. There are dozens of articles on my website (CitizensforCriminalJustice.net) full of facts about this problem. Some are: depending which study you read (nobody knows the actual number), between 35 and 55 percent of all violent crimes — rapes and murders — are committed by people with one or more diagnosed mental illness.

Mental health “treatment” in our prisons is a total joke, virtually nonexistent. At least 45 percent, and perhaps 60 percent of all inmates have one or more mental illness (again, the exact number is unknown). And our neglect of the mentally ill is costing us more than $444 billion annually! That is an astonishing amount of money, but far worse are the societal and personal costs of our inattention to mental illness: the pain and suffering, the anguish, the loss.

Many addicts have mental illness, most often depression, by far the most widespread undiagnosed mental health illness in America. Many politicians and others finally now see that they need treatment, not prison, yet we lack the resources they need.

We must call upon everyone involved — legislators, social workers, police, prison officials, victims, prosecutors and public defenders — to “raise a ruckus” and get governments’ attention on this issue. We need proper training for police and for prison workers, effective non-custodial treatment programs, aftercare, and more.

Until they do, more people will die from the inaction, just as surely as people are dying in the streets every day due to our failed “war on drugs”.

Ken Abraham

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