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Mentally ill in jails deserve better

News & Advance - 12/1/2017

I have read The News & Advance's editorials about deaths in Virginia's local and regional jails. Jamychael Mitchell's case interested me because of the mental state he was in at the time of his death. Even after a judge requested he be sent to a mental hospital, he was still denied treatment for his mental illness. In a state survey by the Treatment Advocacy Center, about 20 percent of inmates in jails have a serious mental illness. Once in jail, most mentally ill offenders do not receive the treatment they need and they often stay longer than their counterparts without mental illness. Also, the harsh environment in corrections facilities can enhance the chances for the victimization of a mentally ill inmate. Not only does incarcerating a mentally ill individual hurt them, but it also hurts the taxpayers .The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) claims that housing an in mate with mental illness in jail costs $31,000 annually, while community mental health services cost only $10,000. Instead of punishment, the focus should be treatment.

One way to help enforce this notion is the expansion of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT). CITs are programs for law enforcement that train police officers to respond safely to individuals experiencing mental health issues by using"verbal de-escalation" skills. Although there are over 2,800CIT programs, NAMI reports that they only represent about 15 percent of police jurisdictions in the U.S.

Instead of denying treatment to mentally ill individuals, there should be more of a focus on rehabilitation to those individuals who cannot function in society due to mental illnesses. There should be a call to reform this issue in the criminal justice system.

ADAM PHEMISTER

Lynchburg

Make your voices heard

The House tax bill would tax graduate students for tuition stipends they receive. What kind of terrible redistributive nonsense is this? It will set America back and the potential of each generation to better itself from the previous one. And this is just so large corporations can receive their $1 trillion in tax cuts? Wake up, folks, you know where the GOP interests lie.

It is imperative that you call each of Sens. John McCain, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Jeff Corker and the remaining few GOP thought leaders - even if you don't live in their states - and tell them you're against this terrible tax bill and make sure it never makes it to reconciliation. Currently, only the tax cuts for the wealthiest are permanent. Any so-called "middle class tax cuts" expire in a few years around 2026. And the true cost of the $1.4 trillion in deficit is actually much higher once it's all done - as confessed by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney himself. These facts have been reported over and over in The News & Advance.

There are better and fairer ways to improve and simplify our tax system, which I admit does require an overhaul. The cons of this bill, however, and its negative impacts far outweigh any pros. There is also very little evidence over time that trickle-down tax cuts work in creating economic growth. What does work in improving growth is investments in human capital such as a better and higher education to improve worker productivity - the very items this tax bill threatens. Remember, even Ronald Reagan had to increase taxes after his initial tax cuts.

Please call the above four senators, along with Virginia's own Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and let them know you're against the Trump tax bill as it currently stands. Make your voice heard.

NIRO RASANAYAGAM

Lynchburg

Our guardian angels

On Aug. 18 at 10:08 a.m., my husband and Iwere involved in an auto accident on Virginia 151 turning left on Virginia 6 East toward U.S. 29 South.

We were devastated beyond belief not having seen the approaching pick-up.

There was an angel and her son who took over helping us. We did not get her name. Hopefully she will see this letter to her local newspaper. It has taken a long time to digest and recover mentality from the accident, but we have, and my husband and I want to thank the very kind lady and her son for assisting us and getting all the necessary rescue persons there. If anyone knows who this angel is, we would like to acknowledge her help to us. Thank you.

CAROLAND RICHARD MEYER

Harrisonburg

 
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