A Nov. 28 Close to Home piece by Jesse Price expressed concerns about the District's mental health system, but since the receivership began two years ago, the District mental health system has made considerable progress.
We now work more closely with consumers on planning their treatment and are following their care more consistently in the community. We have increased mental health supports, including housing, outreach, homeless and emergency services. The 464 supported housing units Mr. Price alleged were abolished are proposed to be converted to more cost-effective rental subsidy housing.
It is correct that mental health crisis beds have been reduced from 30 to 23 and that the psychosocial program capacity is now 630 (down from 678, not 710, as Mr. Price reported). However, these adjustments reflect underutilization of these programs, and have allowed concomitant expansion of the other, more needed community services.
Mr. Price's contention that our system has not made the newer medications available is incorrect. The numbers of patients on these new medications have increased from fewer than 300 to 1,600 in the current year--more than 500 percent. Nearly all persons who would benefit from these medications now receive them.
The attempts to reform the District's mental health system have been conducted for more than two decades in an adversarial context. It is time for all parties to work collaboratively.
We are planning a management review of our administrative functions, including our fiscal operations. I am committed to working with a newly established Stakeholder Committee to bridge the gap between the effective mental health treatment that science now makes possible and the mental health services that our community provides. We owe no less to all persons with a mental illness in our nation's capital.
SCOTT H. NELSON
D.C. Commission on Mental Health Services