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Letters to the Editor: Respecting the rights of mentally ill people on the streets can kill them

Homelessness in L.A.
Tents from a homeless encampment line a street in downtown Los Angeles.
(Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

To the editor: The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board is missing the essential tragedy in today’s neglect of people with severe mental illness languishing on our streets and in our jails. The state audit that was released last month also missed the point. (“Improve mental health care before forcing it on people,” editorial, Aug. 7)

Both deny the human tragedy that our “systems” condone in the name of choice. The public sees this and asks the straight-from-the-heart question: Why do we allow human beings to suffer and die in front of our eyes?

The editorial says, “It is the failure to live up to the promises of more than half a century ago to provide adequate mental health treatment where it is most effective.” Duh. So while we are waiting for this bold system change, we should turn our back on this suffering?

I have seen remarkable life transformation of people who were languishing on the streets of Hollywood when they were hospitalized and treated and bathed and fed. Did they choose that? Not at that moment. But that was the only tool we had as we advocated to save their lives.

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Kerry Morrison, Los Angeles

The writer is founder and project director of the homeless services advocacy group Heart Forward LA.

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To the editor: For families of loved ones placed on mental health holds, the system is an endless information black hole.

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Were they seen by a psychiatrist and what was the diagnosis? When will they be released and what is the treatment plan? What medications have been prescribed?

If you try asking these questions, assuming you even reach someone, you almost never receive answers, with patient privacy and the often invoked but rarely questioned federal HIPAA law cited as the reason why.

Seventy-two hours ago, they wanted to kill themselves, and now they’re on a park bench 30 miles from their home, digging in a trash can for a cellphone lost weeks ago.

But why should we let that get in the way of their right to privacy and self-determination?

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Erik Nasarenko, Ventura


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