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Letters to the Editor

August 04, 1998

To the editor:

This letter is in response to the article, "Schizophrenia" (Aug 3).

The three major problems with being treated for a mental illness are: negative social stigmas, cost and misunderstanding.

Kate Coleman did an excellent job pointing out these factors. If you have a virus or a broken leg, you jump in the car and get treated. Your insurance company covers the majority of the cost, and those around you don't make fun of you. In fact, they are concerned and offer their support.

When a person develops a mental illness, a real medical illness of the brain, this is sadly not often the case. Many mental illnesses are chronic and ongoing that need treatment like any other medical illness. In fact, early professional diagnosis and an effective treatment program is crucial in keeping the chronic brain disorder under control.

Tragically, people are not receiving this mandatory help and, as a result, many are suffering needlessly. Why? Because nobody wants to be ridiculed and humiliated for an illness they can no more help than the person with the flu.

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Also, as Coleman mentioned, there are regular lab tests, medications and counseling costs. While insurance companies will cover the majority of the costs for any illness from the neck down, (barring brain tumors, cancer, blood clots), coverage for mental illnesses is extremely poor and often requires the patient to pay very high deductibles.

Simply put, the average person cannot afford to get treatment for mental illness because they cannot afford it.

Whether a person suffers from schizophrenia, an anxiety disorder, or any mental illness, they have the right to be treated the same as a person with any illness. Period.

Insurance companies and HMOs need to get with the program and begin taking mental health treatment seriously.

Society too, can do its part by realizing how devastating mental illness is for the sufferer. People can show positive support, and begin educating themselves with facts instead of outdated, false information. And, society can put an end to cruel, humiliating statements. How would you like to be tormented with, "sicko" or "idiot" every time you came down with a cold?

It wouldn't make you feel good, would it?

Fortunately, Washington County has the best mental health services possible. The Washington County Mental Health Center, Inc., is wonderful as are the other mental health providers in the area.

There are a number of support groups like Coming Out of the Shadows, Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Washington County, and C.O.P.E. (Controlling Our Panic Effectively), that truly care and give tremendous support for the sufferer as well as their families.

The time has come to put an end to these negative stigmas. If you know of anyone who has a mental illness, accept and encourage them to seek immediate treatment.

Educate yourself and learn the facts. Write to your local delegate and start putting pressure on insurance companies to pay equal coverage for all illnesses. After all, you never know when mental illness will strike you.

Unlike our society, it does not discriminate. We didn't think it would happen to us.

Kathy Greenough

President of C.O.P.E.

Hagerstown

And it's ugly too

To the editor:

To the planners of the new Washington County District Court building: Please provide ample parking for your staff and patrons.

Employees of the courthouse and the county have ruined the quality of life for residents of Summit Avenue by using our street as their parking lot. Not only do they park here, some of them even bring their garbage with them on trash day!

If residents are stupid enough to go to the store for milk in the morning, forget coming home because there will be no place to park until the courthouse closes.

Having your 80-year-old aunt for a visit? Forget it, she'll have to walk four blocks because there will be no place for her to park during courthouse hours.

Last year several residents of the second block of Summit Avenue met with the city's traffic and parking board to express our concerns about the lack of parking for the residents here. The city graciously and quickly fulfilled our request for eight parking spaces on Hood Street for those of us blocked in and out of our homes in this residential district.

Within a week of the paint being dry on these new spaces ... well, you can figure it out.

Downtown is already congested enough. While you have the opportunity to alleviate some of the parking problems, aren't you doing your taxpaying constituents a disservice by only providing a small number of parking spaces behind the building for judges and staff?

Our judges can certainly afford to pay for parking in the deck or in private lots. The employees probably can't. Give them a place to park; they deserve it.

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