Archive for Friday, February 11, 2005

Time to step up

Leaders for the local hospital and mental health center need to work together to find a better way to provide services to those with serious mental illness.

February 11, 2005


It is not an easy puzzle to solve, but something needs to be done to provide more than the bare minimum of aid and care for those in our community affected by mental illness.

The recent suicide of a young Lawrence woman brought the local mental illness situation to a head, in the minds of many residents. It doesn't do much good to rehash who said what, who refused to give care, what might have been done to at least delay the suicide, why she was turned away in a time of need, who may or may not have been at fault or any of the many other questions surrounding this case.

What does matter is to make every effort to prevent this kind of tragic situation from occurring again.

The public needs to realize that mental illness is this nation's No. 1 disease. Whether it is depression, bipolar disorder or any other diagnosis, mental illness shows up in so many harmful ways and affects so many people and their families.

Lawrence residents take pride in knowing their community is looked to as a leader in many areas. Why shouldn't it be looked to as a state or national leader in how it addresses the mental health challenge?

The Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center is top-flight, probably the best in the state, if not in the region. Lawrence Memorial Hospital is a much better hospital today than it was only a few years ago. Both operations are great assets for the city.

Now, however, is the time for the boards of directors for both organizations to figure out a way to improve the way in which local residents with mental illness can receive care. It's obvious something needs to be fixed, and it is up to those serving in board positions in these two operations to come up with a sound, workable, realistic plan.

Board members of such organizations assume some serious, major responsibilities. There is more to the job than merely having your name on a nice-looking letterhead.

The boards of Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center need to take action and have the courage and vision to minimize the possibility that the recent suicide situation will be repeated. In addition to the boards of both of these operations, city and county commissioners should examine what role they can play in positioning Lawrence to become a leader in how it meets the ever-growing needs of those affected by mental illness.

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