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Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 01:53 pm

Letters to the Editor 12/27/12

Mental health patients and heritage rifles

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Mylene Poitras tosses white feathers over a makeshift memorial on Dec.17 in Newtown, Conn. Poitras, a hospice expressive art specialist, met with survivors from Sandy Hook Elementary School. The white feathers represent angel wings, Poitras said
PHOTO BY CLOE POISSON/MCT

MENTAL HEALTH PRIORITIES

Now is not the time to turn our backs on mental health patients.

The entire country has been shocked by the Connecticut school shooting, and while mourning the victims there’s also a sense of urgency to understand how this tragedy could have been prevented. With so many details yet to emerge, it is impossible to know whether the proper mental health treatment could have helped Adam Lanza, but there is no question that this terrible event will lead to many conversations about the state of mental health care in this country.

After all, there may or may not have been mental health signs that should have triggered intervention in this case, but if there were – and they were ignored – we could never forgive ourselves.

It is exactly for reasons such as these that many community hospitals like Saint Anthony remain committed to offering critical mental health care, even as others are shutting their doors to these patients. Why would they possibly do that? In the case of the State of Illinois and Governor Quinn’s office, it’s a budget issue. These patients cost more and the budget is in crisis, so the state shut down its facilities that serve this population, increasing traffic to hospitals such as ours. And the scary truth is many of these remaining hospitals are considering a similar decision due to readmissions penalties.

On the surface, the readmissions penalty makes sense – ping hospitals who release patients who are then readmitted for the same issue at theirs or another hospital. This should encourage hospitals to implement new practices to reduce such cases. But the devil is in the details – consider that mental health patients have a higher readmission rate than the average patient, so hospitals that serve a higher mix of patients with mental health and psychological needs face higher penalties. Now, you can understand why the base of services to these patients is shrinking.

Guy A. Medaglia, president and chief executive officer,
Saint Anthony Hospital
Chicago



HERITAGE RIFLE

I was very saddened to open the most recent edition of the Illinois Times and find an insert advertising a Springfield heritage rifle. My 11-year-old daughter even reacted with shock. Why would you include this in your paper – especially the week after the horrific shooting in Connecticut?

It was very disheartening and made this week’s Chris Britt cartoon even more poignant. We all need to be part of the solution. We all need to do our part. I urge you to be more selective about the advertisements that appear in your paper. Your paper strives to add a unique and positive voice to our community dialogue, and I think the businesses you support should reflect this mission.

Name withheld by request


REMEMBERING MARY

While tributes to Mary Lee Leahy upon her recent passing appropriately lauded her 1990 U.S. Supreme Court victory over patronage in the Rutan case, her victory in the Illinois Supreme Court seven years later may have an even greater impact.

In Denton v. Civil Service Commission, Leahy convinced the Illinois Supreme Court to rule that the Illinois law giving veterans a hiring preference over non-veterans in the same grade or category was absolute. Prior to the high court’s decision, the state only applied the veterans’ preference if two job applicants were exactly equal (a rare occurrence). The Supreme Court agreed with Leahy that the law means that if there are 15 applicants with a grade of A, and only one is a veteran, the veteran must be hired.

After winning his case, Leahy told Denton that it would likely have a greater impact than Rutan because whether someone was hired or promoted for political reasons is open to interpretation, whereas whether someone is a veteran is not.

Leahy’s work in the Denton case lives on by insuring that when the brave women and men of our armed forces leave the service, they will be given the absolute preference in hiring by the state they earned and deserve. Thank you Mary Lee Leahy for all you did for the citizens of Illinois and the United States ... your work lives on forever.

Sam Cahnman
Alderman, City of Springfield

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