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Letter: Grateful for Mental Health Series

To the Editor:

I am grateful to the Valley News for printing the Concord Monitor series “In Crisis: The Decay of Mental Health Care in N.H.” I was most touched by reporter Annmarie Timmins’ personal account of living with depression. Hopefully her bravery in sharing her personal life experiences will make clear to your readers the lengths to which so many with mental illness in New Hampshire have to go to receive treatment. I believe her willingness to share her story comes from the conviction that the only real way that change will come is by informing the public of the facts revealed through first-hand experience.

Having worked professionally for almost 40 years as a clinical social worker in the mental health systems of three states (14 years in New Hampshire), I found the third article, “An Alternative Path: Mental Health Court Gives Offenders Treatment, Not Time,” to have special significance. Mental health courts provide sentencing options for nonviolent, misdemeanor-level offenses that are committed by persons with untreated mental illness. Grafton County has established two operational mental health courts (with one more in the planning stage) that will reduce recidivism of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system through facilitating effective community mental health treatment.

The Halls of Hope Mental Health Court in Lebanon provides an innovative and comprehensive alternative to incarceration. This alternative sentencing program addresses the root causes of participants’ criminal behavior. Those who sign on to the program receive appropriate treatment in the community as well as being held responsible for their crimes.

Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo has been instrumental in spearheading this effort. She believes that when we work together to understand all aspects of a human challenge such as mental illness, we are much more likely to find a real solution.

Mental health court is just one way to help change a failing mental health system as well as to provide the community an opportunity to become actively engaged in the process of change.

Rosemary Affeldt

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, Retired

Chair, Advisory Board

Halls of Hope Mental Health Court

Enfield

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Concord — Joshua Knight was alone, had been for hours. He curled up on the mattress on the floor, shut his eyes and tried to block out his memories of the day. Knight, 33, had been handcuffed and dragged out of his basement apartment in Chichester that September day last year. His mother, Carla Northrup, had been crying so hard …