Readers Respond to a Violent Man’s Plunge Through the Mental Health System

“Anybody who judges this guy for not wanting to take his drugs prescribed to him ought to give them a try themselves to see what is at stake.”

A week after our cover story on overcrowding and early releases at Oregon State Hospital, WW considered a case closer to home: that of Joshua McCurry, a mentally ill Portlander who has fallen though every social safety net and presents a danger to the people he encounters (“World of Hurt,” March 8). He has stayed in Portland’s dedicated psychiatric hospital and a residential clinic, but only landed in the state hospital after punching a police officer. McCurry’s story exemplifies a system in which people with mental illness receive care only in the immediate aftermath of committing violent crimes. Here’s what our readers had to say:

Mid County, via wweek.com: “When the police are called to an armed, violently acting out, out of control, mentally ill person in the midst of a psychotic break, and end up having to shoot said person, it’s inevitable that community leaders, politicians, and mental health advocates, with the benefit of hindsight, will lay sole blame for it happening on the failings of police.

“It’s far easier than actually doing the hard work and having the political courage to overhaul an entirely broken mental health care system.

“Again, compliments to WW for keeping a bright spotlight on the issue of the lack of mental health services in this state, and the failure of political leadership (both parties over the years) to have the will and courage to address the ever-growing issue.”

WheeblesWobble, via Reddit: “Why is our government so hesitant to build up state hospital capacity? This is a huge problem that nobody seems to be even trying to solve.”

pacific101, via Twitter: “Civil rights rulings mean people have the right to (A) not take medicine and (B) not be held if they are not a threat to themselves or others. This leads to problems, absolutely. But that’s the bottom line that activists fought for in the ‘70s. No one wants Cuckoo’s Nest again.”

wandering_fox555, via Reddit: “This is an issue across the country. I just moved here from New Mexico and they have the exact same issue. As a country, we need to fund programs for persons with severe mental illness and proper housing and treatment for them. Unfortunately, most people just don’t care and like to blame the individuals themselves because it feels better to do so than realize we are utterly failing as a society. Most people we see acting erratic on the street are not solely abusing drugs but are having a delusional episode from untreated severe mental illness. Many of these illnesses cause progressive cognitive decline without medication.”

Susan Marie, via Facebook: “And we can’t force him to take meds why? He is clearly a danger to himself and others and, in my book, that means his civil rights do NOT weigh against everyone else’s rights, not to mention safety. No meds, no liberty. But he should be treated humanely.”

gracelouise, via wweek.com: “Anybody who judges this guy for not wanting to take his drugs prescribed to him ought to give them a try themselves to see what is at stake.

“I was misdiagnosed as psychotic at age 15 and spent the next four years being made to take that crap. It made my depression much worse and made me so dysfunctional that as a former math-loving student, I was unable to do simple algebra problems.

“We need a low-cost moral care asylum in Oregon where the treatment is quality of life, rather than toxic drugs, brain-injuring electroshock, and subtle verbal abuse by smug therapists. That can be done by employing peers rather than pricey psychiatrists and therapists. Good food, comfortable quarters, healthy activities would keep that man comfortable and allow him to recover from all he’s been through at a cost far less than the state hospital.”

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: P.O. Box 10770, Portland OR, 97296 Email: mzusman@wweek.com

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