To the editor: The fabricated story of a shooting by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in Lancaster was about much more than one rookie officer gone awry.
The deputy alleged that he was wounded when shots were fired from an apartment complex near the sheriff’s station. Within hours, a leader in the Lancaster community claimed that the apartment building was filled with mentally ill people who should not be allowed to live near a sheriff’s station.
Our agency, Mental Health America of Los Angeles, runs the Lancaster Enrichment Center, located across the parking lot from this apartment complex. What our clients have in common is a lack of financial resources and a need for services.
Our agency provides services to 35 of the 100 units in the apartment complex that are allocated to individuals with a variety of disabilities, including mental health needs. The building, which is run by another company, has other units that are set aside for low-income individuals and families. A key component of the permanent supportive housing model used across the country today is the integration of people with disabilities into larger communities.
Comments about getting people with mental illness away from everyone else are more about class than mental health. No one talks about moving wealthier individuals who are dealing with mental health challenges away from nicer areas.
This incident should serve as a learning opportunity. Recognizing this stigma and the blanket judgment that it can carry is an important step in addressing the need for education and awareness. Mental health issues affect our entire community.
Christina Miller, Los Angeles
The writer, a psychologist, is president and chief executive of Mental Health America of Los Angeles.