In a July 1 editorial, The Post laid blame for the reality of mental patients' becoming homeless on both advocates of patients' rights and local government officials. As a partial solution to the problem, The Post proposed a change in commitment laws that would make it easier to commit those most seriously stricken with mental illness who now receive little care from the city.
Except for the mentally ill themselves, no one experiences the tragedy of failed mental health care more acutely than those of us in this community who provide shelter to the homeless. Increasingly we have begun to unite to demand, on behalf of those we serve, the type of mental health care that would remove the word "shelter" from the minds and plans of those who design mental health care systems. We have asked not for easier means of committing the ill to large hospitals but for quality, community-based care.
Too many people already spend short periods of time at St. Elizabeths Hospital, where they receive little or no care before being released no healthier than when they arrived. The real problem is not an ineffective commitment law, but this city's past inability to provide the type of community care that, when implemented successfully, eliminates the need for repeated returns to the hospital.
Let us stop supporting the halfheartedness that has blocked the implementation of community-based mental health care. Rather, let us continue to demand from this city and from ourselves the dedication that will create a mental health system which does not allow for homelessness. BRIAN C. CAROME Co-chair D.C. Advocates for the Mentally Ill Homeless Washington