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Mental health miscues: Silly comparison in Concord

January 09. 2013 11:52PM

The seriously mentally ill should be treated with respect and, within reason and need, those who qualify for financial assistance should receive it. That said, some who claim to speak for them have an odd way of going about it.

Earlier this week, some such advocates held a news conference to bemoan the level of health services currently being offered in New Hampshire. Fair enough. Our new governor and Legislature have their hands full with competing demands and only so many squeaky wheels are going to get much grease this year. Stating their case was appropriate.

But in attempting to make the case, a chief spokesman showed amazing insensitivity to those for whom he claimed to speak.

Ken Norton, executive director of the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, appeared to be tying all people with mental problems with the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

"It should be as easy and as quick to get a mental health appointment as it is to purchase a firearm," pontificated Norton.

Besides being beyond silly, that statement is hurtful to untold individuals who are no more likely to do such a thing than are the rest of us, but whose feelings are often much more fragile. One would think an advocate for them would be particularly careful to differentiate the one from the many.

Comparing a private purchase, be it of a gun or a TV set, to the problems with public funding for low-income mentally ill is ridiculous and counterproductive.

Norton and company would have been better advised to focus on what the state has already promised in terms of critical care and what it has shockingly failed to deliver. It has been months since the Lynch administration promised to add 12 beds to the New Hampshire Hospital. At Monday's news conference, it was revealed that this won't happen until July.

That is not acceptable, said Norton. On that, we can agree.

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