When reading the front-page article “N.Y. eyes overhaul of mental health care,” in your Sept. 28-29 issue, I was saddened to see the statement by Sen. Seward’s spokesperson, Jeff Bishop.
The article said he noted the senator’s concerns about the impact of proposed changes on area residents, concerns that “include the presence of ‘dangerous patients’ in communities.”
Mr. Bishop’s words serve to reinforce the stigma about mental illness that exists in the perception of much of the public. There have been many studies with statistics indicating that people with mental illness have a rate of aggressive behavior that differs little from that of the general population, and that they are many times more likely to be victims of it at the hands of others.
Instead of focusing on the need for quality community treatment and services, and how these can be achieved, to promote recovery and a healthy integration into community life, he chooses to stress negative stereotype and fears.
There are many people in the several counties affected who are deeply concerned about the proposed closing of Greater Binghamton Health Center, and what that can mean for those who at times may need in-patient hospitalization. This is in view not only of its location, but of its superior ratings, among the highest of all of the state hospitals, and the needs of our rural region for this kind of valuable resource, even with the plan for development of more-comprehensive community services. Some have made active efforts to advocate in the hope that the decision to close it may be reversed.
But use of such language to scare our communities is inappropriate and uncalled for. It doesn’t do anything to help enlighten the process of making the best of the statewide transition that is already underway.
Riba is president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Delaware County.