the released

What are your reactions to this report? Would you agree that America’s community-based mental health care system is a disaster?

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Dear FRONTLINE,

We as a society decided in the early 1980's to deinstitutionalize individuals with mental retardation and also with mental illness. The developmentally disabled left institutions to go to group homes. However there were no group homes for those with mental illness. As a society we must realize that keeping someone in jail is much more expensive than opening up supportive group homes for those with severe mental illness. It is the right and moral thing to do. Society will benefit and so will the people whom they would serve.

Rick Thies
Covington, Kentucky

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for airing this program. The group home model that allows persons to stay and learn daily living skills--at the same time developing relationships is, perhaps, our best hope for caring for the chronically mentally ill population. For persons who exhibit schizophrenic traits, the power of being in relationship compliments traditional treatment modalities (i.e., medication therapy). People need not be defined by labels given them (i.e., "he's a schizophrenic" or "she's a borderline.") Rather, we would do well to consider to think in terms of persons exhibiting schizophrenic or borderline features. For in doing so, we stand a better chance of retaining the dignity and worth of the individual. As a society, we send people of out prison with a bus pass and a box containing their personal items. For the chronically mentally ill, and as your show demonstrated, the vast majority return to a life of incarceration. Perhaps it is time to aggressively define ways to truly care for this population, for their mental health matters.

Terri Oldham
Belton, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

I applaud your effort to bring to the forefront a symptom of a disease that has overtaken this country. It's so sad that this great country has taken upon itself to house the greatest number of people in the world behind bars. China has almost a third more people than America, yet only has a small percentage of them behind bars. Far less than America. America is now the record holder of most incarcerated - a whopping 25% of all those behind bars reside in American prisons and jails. Instead of helping those who have made a mistake or as your story portrayed, have a disease, we incarcerate them for ungodly, lengthy sentences. And then there is no help for them when they try to return to society. These people don't know if the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed a light or a train. I pray we come to our sense and get over this "war on crime" that the politicians are waging, that we give these people the help they need.

Marlis B
Lubbock, Texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

FYI, this is a very good documentary on the released. How many of those interviewed or followed are veterans? If unknown, I encourage a focus on this unique aspect of the population. I knew there would be a lot that have been homeless, had housing and employment problems, etc. I had no idea of the volume of mentally ill being released. In this economy, with 2 raging wars, scarce resources, there will be more reentry issues. This is a multi-system issue that needs addressed at many levels. I am more specifically interested in veterans incarcerated and those being released. There are about 7% in Ohio. Veterans are unique based upon military status and experiences, penal treatment and post-release needs vs. general inmates.

Slippery Rock, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Frontline is showing a valuable program. I have a brother who is paranoid schizophrenic. At 51, he has been in and out of the prison system for many years for non-violent crimes, does not stay on his meds, medicates himself with street drugs, walks out of rehabs, gets released from rehab with several weeks of prescription meds. At times he is homeless, chooses when he will let the system and his family help him. I am watching his life through this story. It is a tragedy for him and for my family. It is frustrating and sad for us to watch him repeat this cycle over and over again. So, while my family and I are not learning anything new with this program, perhaps it will be a wake-up call for those who make the laws. Perhaps change can come about, if not for my brother, for the next generation of mentally ill people who call the streets and jail home.

Mary Lammert
Greenville, de

posted april 28, 2009

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