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THE MENTALLY ILL DESERVE TO BE TREATED WITH RESPECT

I read with great dismay a Dec. 18 letter railing against mentally ill individuals from the Bridgewell DePaul Care Community visiting another neighborhood. This is a free country where people -- whether they have a mental illness or not -- are allowed to leave their own neighborhoods.

As a volunteer at Bridgewell for the last two years, I can attest to the high quality of care each of the 100-plus residents receives. And lest anyone be confused, having a mental illness is certainly not grounds for locking up a person. Bridgewell is an adult-care community, not a jail.

My experiences have shown me such wonders as long-term homeless people having a roof over their heads and hot meals for the first time in years. Each person is given an appropriate level of freedom. Adult-care facilities are designed to enhance people's lives, not to repress them. Perhaps the writer is confusing an adult-care facility with an institution, our archaic and inhumane manner of housing individuals with mental illness or disabilities.

Thankfully, we have moved away from the outdated system of warehousing the mentally ill. With facilities like Bridgewell, we are treating them with the respect they deserve.

TRACY DIINA Buffalo

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