Overhaul mental health care
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's bill (the proposed Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act) calls for much needed reforms in the recognition and overall societal care of individuals suffering from serious mental health disorders.
Regrettably, many of these people are homeless or living in squalid conditions without medical care. A significant number of jail inmates throughout the country have been incarcerated because of petty crimes that were committed as a direct result of their psychiatric disordered rather than actual mens rea.
As a medical student and intern, I recall several mental health institutions that once existed in Allegheny County. As a forensic pathologist and coroner, I have dealt with numerous cases in which untreated psychiatric disorders resulted in tragic deaths.
A mental disease that seriously compromises someone in an emotional-behavioral manner requires appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment, just as do a vast variety of physical pathological processes. Properly staffed hospitals can provide that kind of care. Sidewalks, hillside dugouts and prisons are not beneficial to either mentally ill people or society.
We should do everything we can to support Murphy's bill.
Cyril H. Wecht
The writer is a former Allegheny County coroner.