The mentally ill are neighbors and familyI believe that...


October 03, 1997

The mentally ill are neighbors and family

I believe that the controversy concerning the housing of six individuals with mental illness in Loch Raven Village (article, Sept. 22) is due to a growing gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding of mental illnesses and the people who have them.

Mental illnesses are now known to be physical diseases of the brain. While incurable, they are successfully treated in the vast majority of cases. Approximately 22,500 citizens of Baltimore County suffer from chronic mental illness such as schizophrenia and manic-depression. They live among us as our neighbors, co-workers, family members, fellow taxpayers, and voters.

Recent studies have indicated that individuals often find the effects of stigma and discrimination, in housing, in education, and in employment, more disabling than the diseases themselves.

It is imperative that our elected officials such as Councilman Douglas B. Riley and U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. understand that persons afflicted with mental illness are also their constituents (as are their families) and are simply people who suffer from diseases of the brain rather than diseases of the heart, liver or pancreas. Our officials must make informed decisions for the use of the tens of millions of dollars that Baltimore County receives for medical care and services for nearly 3 percent of our population.

The fact that six people from a local, publicly supported program are ready to lead more independent (and less costly) lives should be a cause for celebration. It is also a testament to the courage of those six individuals who are attempting to fully participate in a society that continues to shun them.

I invite anyone who would like to learn more about mental illnesses to call a local organization such as Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Metropolitan Baltimore, Inc., The Baltimore County Mental Health Bureau, On Our Own, or The Mental Health Association of Metropolitan Baltimore.

Beverly T. Hoffberg


The writer is chairman of the "Open Your Mind" Campaign to End Discrimination Against Persons with Brain Disorders.

Religious festivals deserved more space

Your coverage of the Baltimore City Catholic Evangelization Festival at Pier Six (Sept. 28) was at best disgusting. This was an event whose primary focus was to promote peace and harmony in our city, to share the heritage of our nation's first diocese, and to offer hope to the future of the city.

Equally disgusting was your coverage of the Gospel Revival at Oriole Park. Both of these events occurring on the same weekend was something good and positive for the city of Baltimore. Combining these two events in one skimpy article buried on Page 4 did not do justice to either.

I guess people coming together in Baltimore to celebrate and share the good things in their lives does not carry the front page clout of people clamoring for replacement of a bridge on the Eastern Shore.

Richard Byrne


Snake farm's foes are scared, ignorant

It seems to me the residents of Glen Arm (article, Sept. 23, ''Rattled neighbors decry snake breeding business'') are reacting to Peter A. Kahl's snake farm in fear, rather than taking a more educated approach to snakes and snake breeding.

Many people are interested in reptiles, professionals as well as -- hobby enthusiasts. Are the comments by Lawrence Schmidt, the zoning commissioner, based on myths about snakes? Just because a serpent was the embodiment of evil in the Bible, doesn't mean the animal is evil in nature.

We humans must stop projecting our fears, our personifications, on animals, for it makes us biased against them, inhibiting curiosity and learning. Animals do not think the way we do, and a snake slithering along the forest floor has no ambition to be but a snake, eating, sleeping, procreating.

The snakes in question are not lethal. If Mr. Kahl is building a breeding center following safety rules, taking precautions to ensure a healthy environment for the reptiles, where is the harm? The snake breeding facility could be a great place for learning.

Have any of Glen Arm's dairy farm residents invited school children to see how milk is made? Peter Kahl could possibly do the same thing, demonstrating snakes' habits.

Children find snakes intriguing; ask the Baltimore Zoo. A snake farm could open up a lot of people's minds, reminding us of wild beauty, an ancient time when reptiles ruled the world.

Dana Johnson


The writer is a painter of snakes and other reptiles.

Art-lovers in Baltimore owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Walsh and Artscape '97 for their presentation of the art and artists produced in, or by, this city over the past 20 years.

I have just finished reading ''Link: A critical journal on the arts in Baltimore and the world,'' which served as the third exhibition ''site'' for ''You are here,'' curated by Mr. Walsh for Artscape this summer. The Decker Gallery and Maryland Art Place were the more traditional first and second sites of the exhibition.

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