The editorial "Idle Ceremonies" {Oct. 2} commented on the ceremonies marking the official transfer of authority for St. Elizabeths Hospital from the federal government to the District. It implied that my concern over the city's disposition of any portion of the St. Elizabeths property -- particularly the "west campus" -- is not an "urgent question" in light of the myriad complex problems involved in implementing the city's new mental health plan. I disagree.

In December 1986 the D.C. Council voted to approve the Mental Health System Implementation Plan submitted by the executive branch. I did not join my colleagues in approving that plan as submitted because I had grave concerns about the highly ambitious scope of its community placement component. It continues to be my belief that the number and nature of mental health patient community placements envisioned in the plan are unrealistic.

I am concerned that we retain as dedicated to the care of mental health patients the entirety of the St. Elizabeths property, until such time as we can be sure that adequate community placement is being provided. I introduced the Mental Health Patient Placement Act in order to place a legally binding requirement on the city to provide proper community placements prior to the disposition of any portion of the St. Elizabeths facility. It is my intention to preserve space within the District that might provide for the development of creative alternatives to institutionalization for mental health patients.

The District is confronted with an enormously complicated problem in respect to providing housing and support services for hundreds of people. Of these hundreds in need, the patients discharged from St. Elizabeths or otherwise identified within the "Dixon Class" are but one part of the problem.

In addition to the approved plan's goals for community placement, the city has plans for community placement of the mentally retarded, certain classes of offenders and the chronically homeless -- many of whom are former patients already discharged from St. Elizabeths without adequate provision for housing or support services. When we add those individuals who from time to time need emergency shelter, and the people who have been existing in makeshift living arrangements as they languish on the waiting list for public housing, we are faced with an extraordinarily difficult situation.

Putting some brakes on the city's ability to develop this property is of considerable urgency. I am supported in this view by the mental health practitioners and friends of St. Elizabeths who testified in support of my bill at the council hearing on Sept. 23. Contrary to the view expressed in The Post's editorial, the "future use of the real estate" is an important consideration.

BETTY ANN KANE Member at Large, D.C. Council Washington