Wednesday, January 11, 2012

IF ONLY these pleas did not fall on deaf ears, Lakeshore would stay open.

Letter to the Editor
Knoxville New Sentinel

"It's morally the right thing." Those are the words of Department of Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney in stating his reason for closing Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. I am suspicious. He preceded his morally right thing with "because it costs less." And there is the sticking point. Could it be that closing
Lakeshore is the aim of the state because it costs less and has little to do with the impact on its patients and nothing at all to do with the morally right thing? The patients there right now have no voice in this, and many of them would not even be able to express their wishes.
My brother has been a patient at Lakeshore for more than 40 years. (The name was Eastern State Mental Health Institute when he was admitted.) He has been diagnosed with various ailments, but the current medical opinion is autism. He can be violent and self-abusive at times. My 80-year-old-plus parents, who have visited him almost every week since his admittance, would like to keep him at home with them — but they cannot control him during his violent episodes.
My nightmare is that he falls through the cracks with the closure of Lakeshore and is released. To me that would be tantamount to putting a 2-year-old child out on the interstate and telling him to find his way home. I hope and pray this won't happen.
We must be the voice of the patients. We have to make sure that the state will fund services for them that are at least equitable with services provided at Lakeshore. Anything less would be disingenuous of Varney and the state.
As Mahatma Ghandi said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."

Tom Whisman, Knoxville

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