Letter: The Mental Health Maze

To the Editor:

There has been much media attention around mental health recently. This is good, especially when that attention includes accurate, unbiased and current information. We thank the Valley News for its coverage of mental health topics, going back to last year’s excellent four-part series. This coverage informs the public and helps reduce the stigma associated with having a mental illness or being a family member or friend of someone coping with one.

Last Sunday’s article, “Vt. Cops Lag in Mental Health Training,” on the need for more police training related to mental health, sheds light on a national problem. As family members know from experience, access to quality care, or even a hospital bed in a crisis, has diminished substantially in recent years. This is why the police become involved and why our jails house more mentally ill people than do hospitals. Crisis Intervention Training saves lives, and towns should make it available for all their police officers. Police departments, such as Lebanon’s and Hanover’s, whose officers have had the training can attest to its value. In addition, mental health court diversion programs get people into treatment instead of jail. Halls of Hope within the Lebanon District Court is part of the Grafton County Mental Health Court program, with courts in Littleton and Plymouth as well.

The mental health care system is a complex maze that we family members find daunting. There are so many aspects to it: the kinds of diagnoses, methods of treatment and therapy, civil rights and HIPPA issues, housing and employment options, criminal justice and insurance policies to name a few. In an effort to help each other through this maze, some members of the local National Alliance on Mental Illness support group have created an online guide to mental health resources. You can access the site at uvmentalhealth.org. Help is available, recovery is possible, and dedicated people are working to achieve better outcomes.

Donna Stamper


Jim and Marjorie Matthews