Once again, the media has had the foresight to dispel another stigma about mental illness {Health Policy, Jan. 5}. The writer demonstrated that mentally ill people are not dangerous and accurately pointed out that mentally ill people can succeed in a well-run community-based program.

The Green Door, a vocational rehabilitation program in the District, takes patients from St. Elizabeths and the shelters and provides vocational training as well as help in finding housing and a job.

There are not enough programs like this, so the problems that mentally ill people face will continue to escalate. We need to realize that well-run community-based care is the solution to deinstitutionalization without homelessness.

Judith Johnson

Executive Director, Green Door


Thank you for the article on the Simmons case. It is unfortunate that the public needs constantly to be reminded that there is no causal connection between mental illness and mass (or any) murder. Your carefully researched short article is sure to be much appreciated by families and providers who are devoted to helping the mentally ill. The last thing needed in the struggle to help is the burden of dealing with popular misconceptions such as the stigma you describe.

Nancy Rosen

Executive Director

Planned Lifetime Assistance Network (PLAN) of Maryland-DC

Silver Spring

What I found amazing was the statement that "mass murders . . . are rare: roughly 36 a year." Even compared to 20,000 homicides, that's still three a month, or almost one every 10 days! It's terrible that we've become a country that can accept something like this as "rare."

Susan Van Pool


Adoption Is Often the Answer

Adoption is an issue near and dear to me.

My heart breaks for Tom and Janice Colella {"Adoption Gone Awry," Jan. 5}. What an experience! The Orange County Social Service Agency was certainly negligent in not informing the Colellas about the child's severe special needs. The Colella adoption certainly makes a legitimate case for the inclusion of medical history as part of the adoption proceedings.

My heart also breaks for the selfish generation of people who take a "shopping list" {"Artificial Insemination and AIDS"} and shop for children. Dr. William Schlaff was quoted as saying that couples seeking sperm donation sometimes request " 'somebody who's musical'; or {say} 'I want somebody who can move to the left and really put a basketball in the hoop.' " How very sad!

Mostly, my heart breaks for all the children. The children who need parents now. The children who will need parents in the future. The children who will not be adopted because of the impact of these articles.

The reason adoption is special to me: I am an adopted child. A special child -- wanted, waited for, prayed for, planned for, loved. I was adopted at birth. I'm now 37, and I can't think of a time when I didn't know that I was adopted. It's a special feeling. I don't worry about who I am. I know who I am. I'm lucky to have been adopted by two of the most wonderful people in the world. They are my parents just as if I were born naturally to them.

To Tom and Janice Colella I would like to say: With hearts as full and ready to love as your hearts are, please try again. There are many children who need loving homes.

To anyone considering artificial insemination: There are so many children who need parents. Please consider adoption.

Joyce L. Bond

Mt. Rainier

Radiation and Risk (Cont'd)

While my miscalculations are regrettable {Letters, Jan. 5}, physicists Charles Eisenhauer and George Lamaze do not weaken the point that low-level radiation exposure is a killer. My purpose in writing about Chernobyl food contamination was to not let pass yet another instance of unsafe levels of radiation exposure being passed off as safe when in fact no exposure is safe.

I believe it's imperative that Americans realize that while they can regulate medical X-ray exposure, it is their only controllable dose; in the meantime, we are being outrageously bombarded by exposure from nuclear plants, nuclear wastes, radon, electric power lines and even air travel, all cumulative. One need only read that "leukemias and lymphomas are more prevalent among electricians, TV repairmen, film projectionists and the like" (Washington Post, Dec. 6, "The Zapping of Post-Electrical Man") or that free radicals, which develop from heat, ultraviolet light or X-rays, cause "molecular havoc" to realize that radiation exposure menaces good health.

Gloria White McNally, PhD


There is no question that radiation is harmful, and individual exposures should be minimized. Unfortunately, decisions on maximal allowable dosage involve economic and other costs. There is an increased radiation exposure consequent to living in brick houses, residence at high altitude, better housing insulation and even sleeping in pairs. Many feel that these radiation risks are acceptable. Responsible debate about nuclear safety should present the magnitude of the risks accurately and assess the costs of the alternatives.

George Crawford, MD

Upper Marlboro

Letters intended for publication must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters may be edited. Although we are unable to acknowledge all letters, we appreciate the time and value the viewpoints of those who write. Send letters to Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.