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Telehealth can help police handle mental health calls | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
Deputy Cheryl Gimenez, left, and crisis response specialist Brittany DeFiore, with the expanded Mental Health Unit at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, walk to the home of an 11-year-old girl who reported she was feeling suicidal over bullying she is receiving at school on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Clearwater. The unit, which pairs mental/behavioral health professionals with deputies to respond to certain calls. eventually took the girl to an area hospital on an involuntary Baker Act.
Deputy Cheryl Gimenez, left, and crisis response specialist Brittany DeFiore, with the expanded Mental Health Unit at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, walk to the home of an 11-year-old girl who reported she was feeling suicidal over bullying she is receiving at school on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Clearwater. The unit, which pairs mental/behavioral health professionals with deputies to respond to certain calls. eventually took the girl to an area hospital on an involuntary Baker Act. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jun. 6

A virtual crisis intervention

When guns, handcuffs aren’t the answer | May 30

I have been an emergency physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa for nearly three decades, which is both an acute mental health/Baker Act receiving facility and a trauma center. I have been the recipient of many acute mental health patients, and the fortunately less often but still occasional trauma these patients suffer due to less than optimal interactions by our extremely hard-working, caring, well meaning, but often minimally mental health trained, first-responding law enforcement.

I fully support the initiative in Pinellas County to include a mental health specialist responding to acute mental health crisis, when feasible, for all of the excellent reasons described in this article: de-escalation of the crisis to provide help and avoid Baker Acts, costly hospitalizations, or worse, including traumatic injuries or deaths. However, the dilemma is typical of what we all face, especially in health care: lack of specialists/FTEs. One solution is telehealth, including tele-psychiatric support, feasibly bringing a mental health specialist “to the scene,” virtually, to assist lesser trained first responders. This is especially seen in rural locations and in areas of socioeconomic disparities of health care. I am honored to be a physician-adviser for the much-needed telehealth legislation that U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, is putting together. It will include tele-psychiatric access to care with a mental health specialist to de-escalate an acute psychiatric crisis at the scene, and thus avoid further harm to the patient in need. Telehealth is a cost saving, health saving and community saving solution to a very challenging and typical health care system of care dilemma.

Dr. Charlie Sand, Tampa

Viagra and abortion

Texas law has no precedent | May 30

I remember when abortion was not legal. I am 70 and never had an abortion, choosing instead to keep my baby. But I took several friends to get an illegal abortion back in the 1960s in New Jersey. They were dangerous. As long as the girl doesn’t have access to abortion, maybe you abortion opponents will feel better about yourselves. But abortion will not go away; it will just be done dangerously again. When I was in medical school we learned about the procedures. But we also learned about the psychological damage to a female forced to carry a pregnancy that was unwanted, and what could happen to an unwanted baby after birth. I also learned the safe way to perform an abortion.

I am sick and tired of men telling women what to do with their bodies. How about if we make it illegal to get Viagra? It’s not even a close comparison but I’d love to have that man come into my medical practice asking for a prescription for that, only to be told “no, you can’t have that. The Legislature has decided that is not okay for you to have that.” How I would enjoy the look of discomfort realizing that someone else has made a decision for his health.

Those who oppose abortion all see this issue in only one plane, when it is a multifactorial issue. Don’t choose the baby over the human forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. Do you know what happens to many babies born into this situation? How many are put in foster homes? How many lead abused, ignored, horrible lives? But I suppose you only look at the pregnant issue and not at the sequel.

Dr. Gail Dudley, Sun City Center

Pride month

With flying colors | June 2

Pride stands for courage, it stands for justice, and most of all it stands for love. As we recall the trials the LGBTQ+ community has endured and celebrate the trailblazers who’ve bravely fought for equality, let us recommit to the work that remains. Happy Pride Month!

Paul Bacon, Hallandale Beach

We can handle the history

Divergence on diversity | June 1

Gov. Ron DeSantis opposes the teaching of critical race theory in Florida’s schools, an important tenet of which is that racism was woven into the fabric of our laws. An example was the attempt by Texas and many other states, including Florida, to adopt legislation that would make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote, without mentioning them by name. DeSantis says kids who learn critical race theory will hate their country and each other, a contrived excuse. If Germany’s schoolchildren can learn the unvarnished truth of the horrors of the Holocaust without hating their country or each other, Florida’s schoolchildren can surely be taught the veracity of our nation’s complex racial history without exhibiting undue negative consequences.

Steve Feldman, Apollo Beach

High speed and high cost

Florida should get on board Biden’s rail plan | Editorial, May 26

Spending billions of dollars for a high-speed train from Tampa to Orlando makes as much sense as commuting to Pinellas Park from St. Pete in a $200,000 sports car. Scarce transit money could be spent much better, especially with the news about other regions in the country upgrading their present Amtrak lines at a fraction of the cost. The existing trains achieve up to 120 mph, which translates into a 40-minute trip to Orlando. That’s less time than standing in line at the theme parks! Virtually all of Amtrak lines in Florida could be upgraded with the billions proposed for the high-speed line. If a total upgrade of our mass transit systems is still desired, then we should install a high-speed monorail from Tampa to the East Coast.

Ivylyn Harrell, St. Petersburg

The forgotten year

Valedictorians and salutatorians | June 2

It is undoubtedly true that this school year has been hard on everyone, but it seems that 2020 graduates didn’t receive the justice they deserved. These kids all worked so hard just to go unrecognized for their hard work. Prom, graduation, grad parties and celebrations with their friends were taken away. For most they couldn’t even hug the ones they loved. It was no one in particular’s fault, but I can’t help but look at the graduates this year who were able to do everything in a traditional graduating year. I was not a 2020 graduate but had a brother who worked hard and tirelessly and went without the recognition he deserved.

Lily Rivera, St. Petersburg