Limiting coverage for mental health wouldn't save money...


January 29, 2000

Limiting coverage for mental health wouldn't save money

In the latest of his many trivializing commentaries, "Satcher report is bad science" (Opinion Commentary, Jan. 23), Richard Vatz again strives to present himself as a voice of reason amid irrational mental health policy. He does not succeed.

Make no mistake: Debate about our use of financial resources in the mental health arena is needed.

However, the alternative Mr. Vatz proposes is coverage only for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, which he labels "the true brain disorders."

This could only be proposed by someone with no clinical experience who has ignored the psychological research literature of the 1990's.

Various other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, also seem to entail genetic vulnerabilities and structural or functional brain alterations.

Such disorders often cause more impairment and more indirect costs than many of those who cope with one of Mr. Vatz' "authentic brain diseases" face.

Steve Shearer


The writer is a licensed psychologist.

Richard E. Vatz's entry into the debate on health insurance parity for mental illness, "Satcher report is bad science," makes the usual play to our worst fears, arguing that mental health coverage will bankrupt the healthcare system.

His recommendations for coverage only for "severe mental illness" defy logic. What criteria define "severe"? Who gets to make the decision -- some managed care gatekeeper?

Do we wait until a depressed patient is suicidal or homicidal before we pay for treatment? When he or she grows less depressed, do we deny further treatment because treatment has worked?

Common sense tells us that treating a minor illness is more cost-effective than allowing it to worsen before treatment.

There may be some increased cost for treating mental illness; however, the cost of not treating may be much higher.

How many more Kip Kinkels and Eric Harrises do we need before we see arguments such as Mr. Vatz's for what they are: fatuous rhetoric.

Elizabeth H. Lehmann


State's judges need annual sensitivity training

The Sun's perceptive editorial "Can an 11-year-old tango?" (Jan. 18) went right to the heart of the problem in the Maryland courts: Insensitive remarks by judges regarding female crime victims have been occurring far too often.

Three cheers for The Sun's suggestion that Chief Judge Robert M. Bell require every trial judge to receive sensitivity training.

But, based on the sexist attitude of Judge Durke G. Thompson, it seems unlikely that one sensitivity session would be enough. An annual refresher sensitivity course for judges should be mandatory.

Lynn Buck


The writer is president of the Baltimore chapter, National Organization for Women.

Fanzine-style gushing doesn't belong in Arts section

I was appalled by Tamara Ikenberg's article in The Sun's Arts and Society section about British actor Jude Law and his role in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" ("Hey, Jude -- you are hot!" Jan. 9).

I could not but wonder: would a man have been allowed to write such a gushing, over-sexed piece of drivel about a female film actress?

Are male writers allowed to objectify women in such a way?

I understand parody, but I'm wondering if The Sun might consider incorporating something a bit more sophisticated into its Arts and Society section.

Rich Espey


A timeless image of children at play

I just wanted The Sun to know how much I enjoyed the panoramic photo by Amy Davis of children running across the snow in Druid Hill Park (Jan. 22).

This could have be children of any color, any country and any century.

Janet Witman


`Sopranos' and their review insult Italian-Americans

I am outraged by David Zurawik's review "Sing the Praises of HBO's `Sopranos" (Jan. 15).

I am not Italian or Italian-American, but I am a great admirer of the contributions they have made. To praise a series that depicts Italian-Americans the way "The Sopranos" does is an insult to that group -- and to everyone in this country.

Why is it permissible to stereotype Italian-Americans as gangsters?

Would Mr. Zurawik praise a show about an African-American pimp?

I know Italian-Americans who are judges, law enforcement officials, journalists, teachers, doctors, accountants, legislators, executives, business owners, bankers and government officials. Not one has ever shot anyone for fun or profit.

If American mid-life crises have to be explored on TV, they should be dealt with in a serious manner, not one that makes fun of and defames an ethnic minority.

Shame on HBO for airing this series. Greater shame on Mr. Zurawik for praising it.

Nancy T. Perry

Ellicott City

The HBO series "The Sopranos" has garnered rave reviews from Sun television critic David Zurawik.

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