Addicts likely to lose out on help | March 25, story
Drug treatment works better than jail
I'm really dismayed that funding for drug addiction treatment is in danger of being cut. It has been proved that treatment works better and is cheaper than incarceration. People are waiting to be treated or cannot afford treatment due to underfunded treatment programs. However, we can always find funding for incarceration.
Our country's drug problem should be managed through medical treatment and education programs, not through an incarceration process. Billions of dollars spent on our "war on drugs" have generated poor results. During this time the drug cartels and our enforcement and incarceration agencies have blossomed and flourished, while our drug treatment and education programs have been historically underfunded and unsupported.
The United States has the highest prison population in the world, of which a very large percentage are drug offenders. We routinely release violent criminals early so drug offenders with mandated no-parole sentences can be kept in prison. Incarceration's primary role should be to keep the violent criminals safely away from the rest of us. Nonviolent criminals should instead be punished with parole, house arrest, restitution, community service and psychological treatment. When we incarcerate instead of heal, we end up creating and regurgitating hardened, violent criminals onto our streets and into our neighborhoods.
The best solution would be a combination of carefully decriminalized drug laws, significantly increased treatment and education availability and funding, and a strategic realignment of our legal and incarceration system's philosophy. Our leaders need to implement systems that help our people, rather than continue to promote the current failed situation.
C.A. Williams, Clearwater
Stabbed boy's mom bipolar, files show
March 25, story
Mental health coverage
still lacking in Florida
At the very time this apparently deranged woman stabbed her son, the Florida Legislature was once again going through various machinations over bills (HB 19 and S 164) that would mandate health insurance companies to provide coverage for mental disorders equal to what they do for physical illnesses. Although 46 other states have some form of parity, certain Florida legislators choose to believe the scare tactics of the health insurance lobbyists. They ignore study after study showing that an increase in cost is marginal if any.
The real issue here is not cost but discrimination. Mental illness is one of the few remaining subjects that has escaped the "protection" of compassion, decency or even political correctness. Over the past 10 years, no amount of advocacy or education has been able to convince some legislators to support fair legislation.
No one can say that this stabbing would not have happened if the woman had mental health coverage. Statistically, people with mental illnesses who receive proper treatment have a high level of recovery, higher than for many physical illnesses.
Real equality in health insurance will provide benefits far beyond those with these debilitating illnesses. The entire community benefits by gaining working, taxpaying citizens who contribute to society instead of consuming resources in crisis units, ERs, jails and other social services.
Donald Turnbaugh, Palm Harbor
Small sum, vital need | March 27, editorial
Help for homelessness
According to the 2007 Annual Report on Homelessness Conditions in Florida, prepared by the Department of Children and Families, 5,930 (27 percent) of homeless people surveyed were mentally ill. If these unfortunate people could receive the treatment they so badly need, it would make a sizable reduction in the number of homeless people on our streets, as well as save taxpayer money spent on hospitalizations, emergency room services, etc., in addition to the taxpayer money spent to help homeless people in shelters.
Legislators need to pay attention to the dollars saved by prevention treatments as opposed to continually paying for the results of untreated mental illness. Oh, yes, and there is that little matter of helping to improve the lives of the mentally ill, their worried families and other people who love them.
Pat Ellis, St. Petersburg
School day turned into a mess | March 26
Why question Christians?
You just had a few facts left out in your Christian-bashing editorial.
First of all, students are allowed to have excused absences for religious reasons. I have Jewish and Muslim students who had excused absences this year for religious reasons — no questions asked. Why would you question Christians on this, one of the most important days of their faith?
Second, can you imagine an employer telling his employee that he cannot take a personal day off that he is contractually entitled to — no questions asked — in any other business?
Third, what in the world does a "socially conservative" neighborhood have to do with Christianity? I've been in Muslim nations that are adamantly socially conservative and not even close to Christian.
Janice Short, Tampa
Schools dropped the ball
After doing what amounts to telling everybody to stay home on Good Friday, the prophecy came true. If the Hillsborough schools had said that students would be held accountable, the students would have been there. If they told people to bring a doctor's note for sickness or they would have not been paid, the workers would have been there. If they told the workers that a last-minute request for time off would not be honored, the workers would have been there.
The school district made it abundantly clear that they did not want to honor the calendar.
Christopher Radulich, Apollo Beach
Clinton delegate solutions fall short | March 25, story
When I opened my paper the other morning, ready for the news, I found an opinion by Adam C. Smith, "Times Political Editor." Wow, I thought, it won't be long now before the funnies and the crossword puzzle will be on the front page and I won't have to go digging through the news to get to them.
I think his opinions belong in the "Opinion" section with the rest of the things I would rarely read.
Sam Warner, Clearwater
Teacher accused of sex with student | March 21, story
Adults vs. minors
Can we please decide what an adult is?
Let's see — recruiters want to bring 18-year-olds into the service of their country. But if you're 17 years old and have sex with your teacher, you're a "boy" and "victim," according to the St. Petersburg Times. And don't forget: You can't buy beer until you're 21. One thing is certain: If you're an underage black male, chances are very good you will be charged as an adult.
Can we please draw a line in the sand regarding the minor versus adult thing?
Tom Ogle, Clearwater