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Everybody's Column

Tragedy highlights need for mental health care

As a child psychiatrist, I offer these comments on the horrific tragedy in Arizona. First, while the shooter appeared to have a serious mental illness, it is important to understand that the vast majority of individuals with mental illness are not violent or dangerous. While this has been demonstrated time and again in research, it is also clear that the combination of serious mental illness and substance abuse is dangerous. Although he was widely recognized as exhibiting these problems and more, he apparently had little or no treatment. This combination of problems and lack of treatment led to his distorted view of the world that contributed to the choice to behave in a destructive way. And then all this was mixed with ready access to automatic weapons.

While there are many lessons for all of us from this sadness, I want to focus on two. One is the critical importance of treatment for the mentally ill, and a recognition that there is still way too much stigma and not nearly enough of a commitment of resources to provide accessible services. As an example, mental health spending currently accounts for 7 percent of total health care costs, a percentage that was higher in the past and continues to decrease.

Secondly, public leaders, whether in or out of government, need to be mindful that their words have effects on everyone. And everyone includes the vulnerable and fragile, like the shooter in Tucson. Perhaps some good may come from this tragedy, but it will take some hard looks in the mirror for all of us.

David Kaye, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Training in Child/Adolescent Psychiatry, UB School of Medicine


Fiery political rhetoric has been around for ages

The terrible tragedy in Arizona has brought out some very weird rhetoric, including the targeting of public figures and commentators in the media by the far left. Just or unjust, that is their prerogative. The same is true of the fiery rhetoric on the right to stir up its base.

People have to realize fiery rhetoric has been part of our humanity from the beginning. Politicians have always used it: lawyers have used it to persuade juries; debaters have used it to persuade judges. Look at the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and Clarence Darrow in the Scopes trial, in which he defended his client's right to espouse Darwinism.

No one can believe rhetoric was an accomplice in the horrible act of a mentally sick maniac. Nor can anyone believe trying to curtail rhetoric by statute would not be an unconstitutional abridgement of free speech under the First Amendment, unless it is coupled with a provision requiring proof that somehow it contributed to the causing of the unlawful act. Let's not panic and jump to conclusions in the wake of this terrible incident. Rhetoric is a good thing in a democratic society, especially in politics.

Richard Grisanti



Educational system needs to teach reality

With incredible sadness, we are witness to another in a continuing string of shooting tragedies, this time in Arizona.

There will be much said about the heat of issues, rhetoric and the derangement of perpetrators. What is being lost in the reviews and analyses is an awareness of a fundamental defect in the nation's educational system and curriculum. The defect plays a significant part in aberrational youthful mental development.

The News once printed Yale professor Harold J. Morowitz's article, "Youth's defense against cults: Lively mind that asks 'Why?' " It needs to be rerun that article with attention to the Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

We are bombarded by invective and surly suggestions in the media by various commentators that are toxic to the minds of youth. Unquestioning, they accept blindly, act foolishly and strike out at the innocent. Morowitz wrote, "Mass communication is too effective to stand without a truth filter for the recipients. Along with readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, we need to teach reality."

David R. Conners



Though taxes keep rising, we get nothing in return

I must reply to a recent letter that referred to cultural offerings as "frivolous events" that should be funded solely by the users. I pay among the highest taxes in the nation. The majority of these taxes are used to fund Medicaid and schools that are funded through property taxes. My parks are closing, my libraries are grossly underfunded and now the minor culturals are completely unfunded.

Am I to say to a Medicaid recipient: If you want health care, pay for it yourself? Do I say to a parent with school-age children: If you want your child to receive a quality education, pay for it yourself?

Those of us who constantly bear the burden of these onerous taxes consistently receive less and less in return. There is a certain element in this community that seems to revel in the fact that Buffalo has been designated as one of the poorest cities in the nation. They wear it on their sleeve like a badge.

Maybe it is time to realize that Buffalo is poor because those of us who can afford to pay these taxes are being driven away because we receive nothing in return -- nothing!

Jack Pellegrino



Ontario parking lots also charge high fees

In response to the outcry regarding the high parking fees near HSBC Arena, I wish to commend the owners of these lots. All I can say is "it's about time." One has to look no further than Niagara Falls, Ontario, to see the very same thing occurring. Hotels offer wonderful getaway packages enticing families from the United States to visit. However, upon arrival, guests are hit with parking costs ranging anywhere from $20 to $40. In most cases, these hidden or unadvertised fees offset any savings one gained from the original promotion. Turnabout is fair play.

Edward A. Bates



Banks go overboard when cashing checks

I went to a local bank in Buffalo to cash a check from my employer, which has an account set up with this bank. I was appalled at the treatment I was subjected to. First, I had to show two forms of ID, which I understand. I gave her my driver's license and my New York State pistol permit card, which has my picture on it. She stated that my pistol permit was not an acceptable form of identification. Finally, after some discussion, she accepted my passport card.

If that wasn't bad enough, I was charged a $5 fee for the "privilege" of cashing my check, which was less than $120. Finally, to add insult to injury, I had to have a fingerprint of my thumb applied to the back of my check. I just would like to know when enough is enough?

Greg E. Gralak


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