A sampling of reader response to The Press Democrat's "Crisis Care" series examining the mental health system in Sonoma County:
Thankful for story
EDITOR: As the father of a young adult child with significant psychiatric and developmental issues, I can only stand up and applaud the incredible cover story in Sunday’s Press Democrat regarding local efforts to cope with the burgeoning mental health care crisis (“Crisis care: ERs take brunt in psychiatric shortfall,” Aug. 6). The overall result is a comprehensive look, from both a practical and personal perspective, at a problem that is as complex as it is acute.
My daughter has been in the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital emergency room several times, as well as stays at Behavioral Health facilities. Considering the article’s depth, I can only add my voice from a lifelong journey with her beginning in Los Angeles 25 years ago.
While the strain on emergency rooms and service sectors is the tipping point, I would add that the people performing those services — nurses, case managers, service coordinators and doctors — are more dedicated and capable than any I have ever encountered. These professionals are as much in need of our collective support as the clients they care for.
It is also important to recognize Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane for the leadership role she has shouldered in pressing the case for adequate mental health care at a legislative level. This issue speaks to the heart of who we are as a community.
— JOHN BRODEY, Santa Rosa
Major health crisis
EDITOR: I often write to thank your newspaper for your consistent coverage of the homelessness crisis and mental health issues. But after your Sunday pieces on the severe state of affairs with mental health care in Sonoma County, I must extend a special thanks. These articles — which profile the complicated legal status of opening and maintaining psychiatric hospitals accepting low-income people and which also show in stark statistics how our jails are filled with the mentally ill as psychiatric units and community mental health supportive units dwindle — hit home.
They highlight a major public health emergency in this county — and in the United States, as well.
What’s needed is more openness about these issues as well as advocacy, public policy and funding that supports more housing and more health care. Your focused and consistent coverage contributes greatly to this cause.
Some may not think these issues concern them, but 20 percent of Americans suffer from mental illness, and severe psychiatric crises impact hospital emergency rooms and the safety of other people.
Of course there are the moral and ethical failures in letting these severely ill people decline — sometimes fatally — right in front of us.
— IRENE BARNARD, Santa Rosa
Mental health solutions
EDITOR: Thank you for highlighting the many creative solutions that Sonoma County Behavioral Health is implementing in collaboration with its community partners to address the needs of residents living with serious mental illness.
Buckelew Programs is fortunate to be a key partner in these efforts. We have contracted with Sonoma County Behavioral Health since 1999 to offer housing, job training and mental health rehabilitation services, including specialized supports for transition-age youth, those referred through the criminal justice system and the chronically homeless.
Crisis Care: The new mental institutions
Sonoma County has a chronic shortage of psychiatric hospital beds. As as a result, a growing number of mentally ill residents are ending up in local emergency rooms and in the jail system. A four-part series, run on four consecutive Sundays, examines the causes and ramifications of the current state of the county’s mental health system, and the people who are impacted the most.
Aug. 6 — Hospitals: The closure of two psychiatric hospitals in Sonoma County has left a gaping hole.
Aug. 27 — Your response: Readers share their stories about Sonoma County's mental health system.
Ongoing coverage: www.pressdemocrat.com/crisiscare
Share your story
We want to hear about your experience with local psychiatric emergency services. What do you do when you or a loved one faces a mental health crisis? Have you or a loved one sat in a hospital bed waiting to be transferred to an out-of-county psychiatric hospital or other mental health facility? Have you or a loved one received psychiatric services in the Sonoma County Jail’s mental health unit? Please send a brief account of your experience to Martin Espinoza at email@example.com.