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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 9, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Mental illness goes unnoticed in Seattle

Psychic disorders allowed to languish on streets

It has been 34 years since the Church Council of Greater Seattle sponsored its first conference on mental illness and the plight of the mentally ill. [“Caring for mentally ill: how a community succeeds,” page one, Oct. 7].

Seattle University provided the venue for the event. The program was an ambitious one highlighted by speakers and workshops. At that time, numerous individuals with obvious serious psychological impairments were showing up in Seattle’s old Skid Road areas and the city jail. Back then it was a new phenomenon.

In the wake of state hospital closures, exacerbated by a woefully ill-funded treatment system, people with profound psychiatric impairments were often simply left to fend for themselves. The abysmal lack of adequate housing and comprehensive, consistently funded treatment resources guaranteed that Seattle and communities throughout the state would be unprepared to meet the needs of the mentally ill.

Thus it has been and continues to be. Aside from periodicly reported incidents in which a disturbed individual precipitates horrific violence on unsuspecting strangers or family members, the majority of those with severe psychic disorders go unnoticed, unremarked and are allowed to languish in our jails and on our streets.

The Times is right to call for change that is long overdue. Is our city, county and state ready at last to create a just and decent system of care commensurate with this ongoing tragedy?

Joe Martin, Seattle

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