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Letter: Why not use funds to help people with mental illness?

Why not use funds to help people with mental illness?

A Feb. 17 editorial praised the restoration of the Richardson Complex. Beginning 140 years ago, the 11 buildings of this complex were constructed, encompassing 463,000 square feet, to provide a home for the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. The News noted that: “After the state psychiatric center moved out in the 1970s, the complex fell into disrepair and was on its way to demolition by neglect.”

I wonder if, at that point, the buildings were already falling into disrepair. If not, why would they bother to move? One answer may be the state’s emphasis on releasing mentally ill people into the community. Today we don’t have an Asylum for the Insane. Instead we have prisons overcrowded with many mentally ill people, large numbers of mentally ill people living on the streets, and hospitals challenged to accommodate mental health emergencies and care.

Meanwhile, we are told that $102 million, including $76.5 million of state funds, have been devoted to reclaiming just three of the Richardson Complex buildings. I wonder what our priorities are. Isn’t it bizarre to spend so much money and attention to transform what was, in its day, a significant place to deal with mental illness, into a luxurious hotel, and to have so little money or accommodations for the real problems of mental illness in our community today?

John Rex

Buffalo

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