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Letter: Mentally ill people deserve humane care

Mentally ill people deserve humane care

I am a psychiatrist in Buffalo, working with people in our community who have severe mental illnesses. I read with interest, but not surprise, the article in the March 15 News about the living conditions of some of the people I care for. Anyone who works with this population is aware of the difficulties inherent in providing safe, affordable housing, as well as in endeavoring to provide optimal mental health and medical treatment.

Every day, my team and others like us are out in our communities trying to improve people’s lives, but there are many challenges. There are not nearly enough appropriate housing options, especially for people with psychiatric symptoms and substance use disorders. Licensed housing programs offer excellent facilities but there are long waiting lists. In addition, some of the most severely ill individuals have symptoms that prevent them from being able to abide by the rules and expectations of these programs.

We all, as residents of Erie County, need to demand humane care for our most vulnerable neighbors. In 2012, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 9.6 million adults in this country had serious mental illness, representing 4.1 percent of all adults. People with these illnesses live among us and deserve our care and respect.

City inspections of abhorrent living situations are a start, but we must be able to provide people with realistic options for housing and treatment. More community residences using the “housing first” model and more mobile treatment teams would be good places to start.

Carolyn Young, M.D.

LakeShore Behavioral Health