Letters to the Editor

Letter: Dismal news

August 25, 2014


To the editor:

Who can hum the old “Hee-Haw” tune, “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me”? Thursday’s Journal-World took me in that direction with the news that our 196-bed jail will soon likely need to be expanded by about 140 beds, with 70 of those beds to be devoted to inmates in need of mental health treatment.

Wouldn’t it be an altogether brilliant, compassionate and fiscally responsible measure to first do all we can to implement preventative measures and keep our kids OUT of Douglas County Jail? Let’s start with supporting more WRAP workers in our schools. WRAP workers provide schools, families and students a ready-made connection to mental health services as soon as a need for help is recognized or suspected.

WRAP interventions would likely also help address another slice of sadness I gleaned from Thursday’s paper, the fact that although the number of our students achieving ACT benchmarks for college and career readiness has improved once again for the fourth straight year, the gap between white and minority students continues to broaden.


Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 8 months ago

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
- Benjamin Franklin

Sorry, but there is only a small budget for prevention. So, the budget for cure will need to be increased.

Brock Masters 3 years, 8 months ago

Why the gap between whites and minorities?

Brock Masters 3 years, 8 months ago

"Wouldn’t it be an altogether brilliant, compassionate and fiscally responsible measure to first do all we can to implement preventative measures and keep our kids OUT of Douglas County Jail? "

Yes it would, but it might mean not overpaying for land or buying more land than needed or giving tax breaks to private developers don't ya know?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 8 months ago

It is truly sad that jails and prisons are having to warehouse our mentally ill. There used to be hospitals that took care of them, but people like Dr. Thomas Szasz, a libertarian psychologist, who claimed the mentally ill had a right to be mentally ill, allowed those who wanted to cut government spending to shut down these hospitals and other facilities. Now the mentally ill have choices (as if someone mentally ill is capable of making good choices). They can find out patient help; they can get themselves arrested; they can live on the streets, self medicating themselves with street drugs; or they can get some cops to shoot them and put them out of their misery, like the kid in Ottawa. How are mental wards in jail better than the horrible mental hospitals of the past? But they are out of sight, out of mind. If we don't see them, they don't exist.

Brock Masters 3 years, 8 months ago

Part if the reason I participate in these discussions, besides the call to share my wisdom :), is it forces me to research issues I might otherwise ignore. Put another way, it challenges my preconceived ideas and makes me seek the truth.

Here is an article I found that is interesting about mental health. I think it is worth sharing.


Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 8 months ago

Thank you for this link. I am going to check the book out from the library.


Kate Rogge 3 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the link, Mr. Mertz. Very interesting.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

" 70 of those beds to be devoted to inmates in need of mental health treatment."

Why not in a mental health treatment center? Seems it would behoove LMH to consider such a concept.

How exactly will or do inmates receive mental health treatment in a jail setting?

What are the results?

Kate Rogge 3 years, 8 months ago

The city owns Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Why don't we have a mental ward there to which mentally ill citizens can be taken for emergency treatment instead of being arrested and thrown in jail? Why on Earth do we continue to treat mental illness as criminal?

Brock Masters 3 years, 8 months ago

Mentally ill people are jailed when they commit a crime. Their illness may be a mitigating factor but it is no excuse for committing a crime. It isn't up to the police to decide. Their job is to arrest a criminal and then let the court decide what to do with them.

Jim Slade 3 years, 8 months ago

A crime that might not have been committed if the individual was able to get the help they needed at such a facility like a mental ward.

Brock Masters 3 years, 8 months ago

True, but that is a different issue. Regardless of whether they are mentally ill or not, if they commit a crime they must be arrested. Kate doesn't want them to be arrested. Seriously, how is a cop to know who is mentally ill or not when apprehending someone who just committed a crime?

Kate Rogge 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't want them to have a criminal record if all they did was be crazy in public. I think the Lawrence Police Department does a great job with what training and options they have. But if they had a local hospital to take a crazy-in-public person without arresting him (or by allowing an arrest to be expunged if incident free by whatever?), I think that would be the decent thing to do. Help them get immediate help (short LMH stay and referral), and don't tie an arrest record around their future. I think we could redirect our attention and tax money in a way that helps the citizen and the community that is alarmed by his illness.

How about Mental Health Courts? We're a progressive-enough little town; we could try to improve and ease strains on the current justice system here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_health_court

tena buse 3 years, 8 months ago

what part of 'having a mental ward' is not the problem, do you people not understand???? you have to have a qualified psychiatrist that will cover inpatient care to work and care for the patients!!!!! there are none to be found and judging by the way medicine is going, there are none looming in the future. don't blame LMH!

Scott Morgan 3 years, 8 months ago

I do blame LMH. Use this analogy, a person with a gaping wound, broken bones, in urgent need of care is rescued by the fine LMH Emergency Room staff. A room is issued, and our finest treat the patient, nursing them back to health.

Or, could this happen? Does in the case of our mentally ill needing help.

This patient is given a band-aide and told to calm down. This patient is told to go home and reminded to make sure there is somebody to watch him or her. The patient is asked how they feel often, which is a bit strange considering they had the guts to enter an emergency room. This patient is given some handouts, and told if he or she is really having problems, drive down to Osawatomie and check in there.

Happens more often than we realize with our mentally ill.

This example is our community response to severe mental illness emergencies. We should demand our community hospital fund a psyche unit. We used to have a great one.

John Graham 3 years, 8 months ago

Demanding the hospital have a psych unit makes no more sense than demanding the hospital have a cardiac surgery unit, neurosurgery unit or transplant unit. Hospitals can not be all things for all people. Psych units are expensive, difficult to staff with MDs as well as RNs. Having a locked psych unit (which is what is being suggested since posters are talking about involuntary commitments in some cases) is not something that everyone in a hospital wants to be around. Having a locked unit where the patients are often trying to get out, requires the unit to be away from the rest of the patients and general public since it can be upsetting to see. Psych patients that require impatient treatment have a high rate of Medicaid or no insurance. Medicaid reimbursement is not adequate typically to cover the cost of having a psych unit. There are psych units that can be used when a patient meets criteria for involuntary commitment.

Scott Morgan 3 years, 8 months ago

LMH does have contingent plans for all the illnesses you mentioned John. They have none for the mentally ill, some of whom have outed themselves after visiting the ER. Going to take the right person with some relatives with clout to shake this gap in treatment plans.

In short, somebody is going to file a hospital busting lawsuit someday.

John Graham 3 years, 8 months ago

To say that any hospital does not have a contingency plan for what to do with a mentally ill patient needing hospitalization is simply not believable. The fact that they do not have a locked psych unit does not mean that they don't have a plan in place for those that need it. Someone that is deemed to be an imminent risk to themselves or others are not simply turned loose and told good luck.

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