April 18

The problems with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act [“A mental health check-up,” editorial, April 17] go beyond its expansion of involuntary treatment. It defunds and devalues services that are most important to the people to whom legislation should be directed. The reasons people can’t get treatment are underfunding and a lack of coordination. We need a comprehensive strategy for people in crisis that assertively engages these individuals where they are — physically and psychologically — and helps them craft a recovery plan that is responsive to their individual needs and circumstances.

We also need to prioritize prevention and early intervention initiatives rather than gutting them. That means recognizing the value of peer services, which are effective in engaging people. And it means strengthening protection and advocacy services that rescue the most vulnerable individuals from unsafe and abusive living situations.

We need services and supports that afford people help immediately, rather than waiting until they’re really sick. We absolutely need more family involvement. But we won’t achieve it by mandating that all federal administrators be clinicians or by conditioning scarce resources on states enacting more coercive laws.

Debbie Plotnick, Alexandria

The writer is senior director of state policy for Mental Health America.