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Letters to the Editor

September 13, 1999

Mental disorder: The least popular affliction

To the editor:

In a recent study, respondents were asked to rate which disability groups were most/least acceptable to them. Those disability groups most acceptable were individuals with obvious physical handicaps; next came those who were blind or deaf. The least acceptable people were ex-convicts, the retarded, and alcoholics. Can you guess who was in last place? The mentally ill.

There are more people with serious mental illnesses in jails and prisons in America than there are in state mental institutions. There are two times as many individuals with serious mental illnesses in shelters and on the street as there are in state mental hospitals. Thousands more are warehoused in squalid adult homes, and nursing homes. Yet as a national average, states still pay more than two-thirds of their annual mental health budgets to maintain state mental hospitals.

A recent study showed that of all health insurance policies in America, only 37 percent have inpatient coverage for mental illness, and that only six percent have comparable outpatient coverage. In the case of Blue Shield/Blue Cross, a medical patient pays $3,200 out-of-pocket on a $100,000 hospital bill, while a patient with mental illness pays $89,000 out-of-pocket on the same amount. The Mental Health Law Project estimates that only one-third of the 30 million Americans who require special services for mental disorders actually receive care.

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People with mental illness utilize more hospital beds than heart disease, cancer, and lung ailments combined. Yet funds spent for research per patient come to $203 for cancer, $88 for heart disease, and $7.35 for schizophrenia. The Jerry Lewis Telethon raises millions for Muscular Dystrophy research, helped by huge corporations like McDonald's and Sara Lee. For every person with muscular dystrophy, there are 40 with schizophrenia. Only one percent of the corporate and private foundations in America have ever funded research in the mental illnesses.

In a recent national survey by NAMI asking about the cause of mental illness, 71 percent of the respondents believed severe mental illnesses was due to emotional weakness, 65 percent thought bad parenting was to blame, 45 percent thought the mentally ill bring on their illness and could "will it away", 35 percent cited "sinful behavior", and 43 percent thought that mental illness was incurable. Only 10 percent believed that serious mental disorders had a biological basis and involved the brain.

Margaret Reynolds

Hagerstown

Unsafe road

To the editor:

On August 1, I became a victim of Md. 77. At approximately 3:30 p.m., I entered what we call "Robinsons Turn," (the first sharp turn going up Md. 77), and it happened to me. Thank God I was alert and thinking about what happened the week before, when a young man from Rockville, Md., was killed in a motorcycle accident on this turn.

I came around the turn and here came a Chevy Blazer going a little too fast for the road conditions but not that fast and he saw me and locked the brakes up. I knew I was in trouble. Being alert and knowing the road, which I have traveled on for almost 32 years, I headed for the Whisner's driveway but I didn't make it. I got slammed broadside by the Chevy Blazer.

Approximately 1 1/2 hours after I was involved in my accident, 5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 1, 1999, there was another accident on the same turn and on the very same day.

Whenever it rains or snows you may as well have Smithsburg Community Rescue Service just go up and wait on this turn, because I can almost guarantee you there is going to be a wreck.

This is ridiculous. When is the state going to do something about these bad turns on Md. 77?

The Whisners, the family that lives on this turn, have fought the State of Maryland for years to do something about this turn. Mr. Whisner has been hit going into his own driveway. They have two children who have to get on and off the school bus on this turn. Does one of the children have to get hurt or even killed? This is just totally outrageous. The State Roads Department told Mrs. Whisner that there have to be three fatalities on this turn before they will even consider widening or making the turn safer, This is so sad.

Md. 77 used to be just a mountain road, but now it's a scenic route. We have people from everywhere traveling this road to see Camp David, Cunningham Falls, the Catoctin Lake, or just to see the wildlife. If the state and government want this to be a scenic route then I think they should make the road safer to travel.

Philip E. Miller

Hagerstown

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