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December 10, 2009 at 3:59 PM

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Mental illness, violence affect us all

Posted by Letters Editor

Jerry Large hits the nail on the head — treatment for youth

Kudos to Jerry Large for the very thoughtful column, “Looking at the whys of a tragedy” [NWThursday, Dec. 3], which can be summarized by his statement, “We’ll have less violence if we are willing to focus more attention on the underlying causes of violence.”

Those words put the responsibility where it properly belongs: upon all of us.

The events surrounding the death of four Lakewood police officers are extremely sad: the tragic murder of these public servants, the life of loss their families face, and the death of a very disturbed Maurice Clemmons.

An added tragedy is the likelihood that this may have been prevented. Clemmons was failed by the judicial and the mental-health systems in two states over many years. He clearly displayed symptoms of mental illness as a youth, but never received treatment.

We have programs to serve adults whose mental illness has led to incarceration. Now, we need more programs to serve children with serious emotional difficulties, before they get into trouble.

The solution is not a matter of limited resources, since it is less expensive to fund prevention and intervention programs than to pay for more prisons. The solution involves understanding that we can and must intervene to break this cycle of tragedy.

— David Stone, CEO, Sound Mental Health, Seattle

Social services failed cop killer

The column “Those who aided cop killer deserve full weight of the law” [Opinion, Lynne K. Varner editorial column, Dec. 2] is a myopic perspective on Maurice Clemmons’ tragic life.

Clemmons violently took the lives of four innocent police officers, however, his life was taken from him before he was killed. Varner stated there should be no expectation of slipping through the legal loopholes, as Clemmons did so many times.

There should also be no expectation of slipping through the social-service loopholes, as Clemmons did so many times.

The RCW 71.05 states that those who are a danger to themselves or others will be given treatment without consent. Involuntary treatment laws are put into effect to protect those in an acute phase of mental illness who, because of the illness, are not able to recognize when to seek help.

It was evident that Clemmons needed help, yet did not receive it. Varner scorns the callous disregard for the law by those who aided Clemmons. Shouldn’t it be recognized that there too was callous disregard for involuntary treatment laws?

— Alisa K. Pisciotta, Seattle

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