Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Small Step in the Desert

Officials in Palm Springs, Calif. made the right decision in reversing plans to close Coachella Valley’s only long-term facility for people with mental illness.  It was a small but important victory. 

Closure of the 34-bed facility in Riverside County would have a ripple effect in the desert area.  A near-by homeless shelter fears that if the other facility closed its doors they would see between two to three hundred more people with severe mental illness a year.  The 100-bed shelter is already beyond capacity.  Ray Arredondo, the director of the shelter raised an important question.  “Once mental health closes and we're overflowing, what happens then?”

It’s often the question policy makers don’t want to answer and it’s exactly how leaving mental illness untreated has become such a widespread problem.

Leaving a small facility open is only one step.  The next step Riverside County and others in California need to take is to put in place Laura’s Law.  That law is a very progressive step that will help people with severe mental illness get treatment.  Riverside, like all the counties in the state, can and should take this important step.  Join the campaign to save lives in California.