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Treating mental illness should be about quality, not cost

To the editor: The tragic account of the Hernandez family, whose son Aaron awaits trial for attempted murder and animal cruelty, is a situation all too familiar to people with a mentally ill relative. ("The nightmare outcome of a son's mental illness," April 13)

Counties should be held responsible for failing to place persons with schizophrenia into a safe environment. In most cases, individuals who are "in crises" should be taken to a state mental health hospital, where the best physicians and psychiatric services are available.

Unfortunately, counties are too concerned with money. It is far cheaper to pay for walk-in clinical services where the patient is not compelled to take his prescribed medications than to place the patient in a setting where he or she receives excellent, round-the-clock care, such as Metropolitan State Hospital.

Los Angeles County's Twin Towers Correctional Facility is probably the largest mental health warehouse in the country. This should not be the case when 30 miles away the care is far superior than what one would receive in a jail.

The situation faced by the Hernandez family is yet another example of county mental health services giving families the run-around.

Suzanne Serbin, Fullerton

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To the editor: I am concerned about how this article may negatively influence people's perceptions of the mentally ill. The vast majority of mentally ill individuals are not violent.

In order to give a more balanced view, I suggest you profile someone who, in spite of his or her illness, is still able to have a fulfilling and successful life, instead of simply highlighting a "nightmare" scenario.

This is a vulnerable population that needs support and understanding from others, not fear and alienation.

Alison Cammack, Atlanta

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To the editor: The ordeal of the family of Aaron Hernandez is the ordeal that each one of us bears. Our jails, which must pick up the slack for our inadequate mental health system, are too often as overwhelmed as the families and communities where our Aaron Hernandezes reside.

Tears came to my eyes when reading about the Hernandez family. The father, so exasperated after being beaten and stabbed by his son that he is "relieved" by what happened, is a truly sad testament to our lack of will in adequately addressing severe mental illness.

May God help the Hernandez family; indeed, may God help us all.

Avis Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles

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