To the editor: As medical director of L.A. County-USC Medical Center from 1971 to 1972, I participated in the original combining of the then-separate county departments of Hospitals, Public Health and Mental Health to create the new Department of Health Services. ("New ideas by L.A. County leaders are welcome -- but are they right?," Editorial, Jan. 12)
We created an opportunity to coordinate our efforts to prevent illness (both medical and mental) with direct healthcare for the underserved and uninsured of L.A. County. The results were remarkable, with the full coordination of preventive and curative services.
Today, a majority of deaths in our community are the result of behavioral issues like smoking and a lack of exercise. This demands coordinated efforts to correct behavior and to intervene with appropriate care when heart disease, strokes and cancers arise.
The separation of public health and mental health nearly a decade ago was a tragic error. The proper solution is the restoration of a Department of Health Services that includes public health, mental health and medical services.
Robert E. Tranquada, MD, Pomona
To the editor: Thank you for your editorial on the possible merging of the departments of Mental Health, Public Health and Health Services. It looks like the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will take your advice and encourage stakeholder input.
The board should also seriously consider integrating treatment for mental health and addiction. Despite different funding streams, these two mental disabilities are linked in the same brain.
Up to 50% of the people in county jail are mentally ill, and most of them are addicts. Neuroscientists agree that integrated treatment is the most effective modality for recovery and long-term stability.
Marsha Temple, Los Angeles
The writer is executive director of the nonprofit Integrated Recovery Network.