Mentally ill can live in communityYour Aug. 7 article...

the Forum

August 31, 1995

Mentally ill can live in community

Your Aug. 7 article ("For mentally ill, state gamble offers liberation") on chronically mentally ill persons living in the community was welcomed by all who recognize that many individuals, given the proper supports, can live independently and successfully outside an institution.

The comments by former long-term hospital patients were heartening evidence of the value they place on independence and choice and a reminder to mental health service providers that even the most severely impaired persons should not be excluded from consideration for community placement.

I do want to correct two factual errors in your otherwise excellent article. First, it should be noted that Baltimore Mental Health Systems does not oversee mental health services in Baltimore ++ County. That administrative responsibility falls to the Bureau of Mental Health of the county's Department of Health.

A state-designated core service agency with a $23 million budget, the Baltimore County Bureau of Mental Health provides funding for a network of community mental health clinics, day rehabilitation, residential, case management, crisis, mobile treatment, elderly outreach and other services for severely and persistently mentally ill persons in its five catchment areas.

Services are provided to more than 6,000 adults and children a year. In recent years, the bureau's sponsored programs have made it possible for hundreds of long-hospitalized, chronically mentally ill persons to be successfully integrated into the community.

Second, the movement to bring people out of the hospital and into the community is not new. Development of residential, clinical, crisis and case management services in the community has been a incremental process over the last decade. This process has been accelerated in recent years by the severe cash crunch resulting from the state's maintaining three hospitals for a reduced chronic patient population.

The Baltimore Mental Health Systems Capitation Project has taken this process of integrating mentally ill persons into the community one step further. By providing consumers with intensive case management on a round-the-clock basis, by allowing them choices over which (if any) rehabilitative or other services they desire and by establishing a capitated rate for all of their mental health and other services and personal needs, Baltimore Mental Health Systems has enabled mentally ill persons who might otherwise have remained in the back wards of state hospitals to live relatively independent lives in the community.

Thus, the capitation project represents a bold and commendable advance in the care of chronically mentally ill persons.

While the jury is still out on the adequacy of privately-operated, unsupervised board-and-care homes as the residence of choice for severely mentally ill people, enough evidence is already at hand to indicate that at least some individuals will benefit from this level of independence.

We must acknowledge, however, that there have been and will be failures. While project results are sure to be mixed, it also seems clear that elements of the capitation project warrant statewide replication.

Connie McDonnell


Just like NASCAR

I recently learned from your newspaper that a NASCAR racetrack has been proposed to be built in the Essex region of Baltimore.

I was under the impression that Baltimore already had a large oval speedway where drivers can race at 65-70 miles per hour while weaving in and out and passing each other with reckless abandon. It's called the beltway.

Robert Lloyd

Ellicott City

Call to action

A remarkable resource to the city of Baltimore will be lost with the forthcoming closing of the Johnston School of Nursing at Union Memorial Hospital.

The last classes of RN and LPN students entered this fine institution this August.

In addition to the full-time LPN and RN programs, the Johnston School of Nursing offered a unique LPN and RN part-time, evening and weekend program. This part-time program made possible the schooling and advancement of people otherwise unable to attend school because of full-time jobs or raising their families.

The forthcoming closure will nearly eliminate LPN course of instruction in Baltimore and its surrounding area. Mergenthaler offers the only other surviving LPN program.

Not only are the dreams of many future students sacrificed, but also the wonderful assemblage of outstanding faculty, programs and facilities that now comprise Johnston School of Nursing.

This nursing program is recognized nationwide as one of the finest. This team of experienced nurse educators has a wealth of knowledge and skills to offer.

This letter is more than a lament, it's a call to action. Is there a foundation, organization or individual who will come forward to save this outstanding school?

A. Barbara Francis


Is city loved?

How does one explain the attitude of so many people who live in and love their city -- Baltimore?

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