Closing hospitals would help state's mentally disabledThe...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 03, 1999

Closing hospitals would help state's mentally disabled

The state's recent decision not to close the Upper Shore psychiatric hospital is another blow to Marylanders with psychiatric disabilities in the state of Maryland ("Outcry blocks move to close mental center," July 18).

Our state's continued financing of large, antiquated, inefficient institutions has prevented us from developing the array of community services that people with psychiatric disabilities need most.

The August edition of The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research featured a series of two-year, follow-up studies to the closure of Central State Hospital in Indiana in 1996.

One study found that while most of those concerned feared that the hospital's closing would have serious negative consequences "to date, [after two years] their fears have not materialized."

Indeed, most patients did quite well after the closure. And the studies documented that the closure saved the state money and the Indiana Department of Mental Health was able to serve twice as many people because of the savings.

At the press conference where former Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh announced his decision to close the hospital, he said that "closing Central State will guarantee safer, more compassionate care for patients and the most cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars."

Are these not admirable goals for our own mental health system?

To effect the kind of changes experienced in Indiana, we will need the kind of political leadership Governor Bayh showed, leadership that will do the right thing for Marylanders with psychiatric disabilities -- not the politically right thing.

Scott Graham, Catonsville

The writer is president and chief executive officer of ReVisions Behavioral Health Systems.

Lieutenant Ryan Berry doesn't need saving

In response to Robert Maginnis' Perspective article "Saving Lieutenant Ryan Berry" (July 25), I'd point out that military officers are responsible for defending our way of life and do not have the right to choose with whom they serve.

Today, mixed gender crews are serving effectively on the space shuttle in confined spaces.

An officer is expected to be a professional and not discriminate against other service members. The military is not a democracy and service members are expected to maintain discipline.

Lieutenant Berry should have resolved his religious conflicts upon volunteering for the service.

Mr. Maginnis suggests that the military should follow policies that discriminate against women. But the military promotes equal opportunities for all and must be tolerant of individual differences.

Black soldiers fought for years for the right to serve in nonsegregated units. The success of this policy can be seen in the career of Gen. Colin Powell, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In the military today, gays are discriminated against. So are the disabled because the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to the military.

But qualified citizens should not be denied the right to serve in the military. It is the service member's responsibility to defend our ideals of democracy and maintain professionalism.

Paul I. Turlington, Burtonsville

The writer is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve.

In a thinly veiled attempt to bolster support for the Religious Liberty Protection Act, Robert Maginnis interpreted Catholic teachings through Lt. Ryan Berry, an officer who was punished for refusing to serve alone with a female officer in a missile launch control capsule.

Railing against a "radical feminist" agenda, Maginnis charges that Lieutenant Berry's religious devotion inherently conflicts with his assignment.

While the church exhorts its followers to avoid temptation, no Catholic teaching implies that propinquity in a professional environment is perilous. Virtue is in resisting temptation, not fleeing it.

The Religious Liberty Protection Act Mr. Maginnis supports may allow those with religious excuses to fire a homosexual or a pro-choice advocate. Not only does this violate the Fourteenth Amendment, but it also fosters bigotry.

Joseph C. Gutberlet, Towson

Kennedy crash a product of the clan's recklessness

As a 23-year Air Force veteran, I take exception to John Sealine's letter "Kennedy crash shows flying restrictions needed" (July 25). Mr. Sealine overlooks the fact that John Kennedy Jr. ignored many rules that any pilot should follow.

Accounts suggest he did a cursory preflight inspection of the airplane. He failed to file a flight plan because he was flying visual flight rules and he even failed to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to track his aircraft.

Had Mr. Kennedy gotten a weather briefing, he would have learned that clouds of mist rise nightly along the shore to Martha's Vineyard. Air traffic control probably would have insisted that an instrument-qualified pilot be aboard.

The answer to such accidents does not lie in more restrictions. It lies in following the procedures a pilot is taught in flight school and using common sense.

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