In his column in the June 6 issue, Richard Brookhiser mentions what he says is a mnemonic: “Some men have many stones, but we have lots of hair.” Please, please ask him to tell us what this mnemonic is supposed to help one remember. I am going nuts.
Richard Brookhiser Replies: My wife tells me that it was a way to remember a particular correlative conjunction in ancient Greek (some . . . but others). As someone who has less and less hair, I find it troubling.
E. Fuller Torrey misses the mark badly in his assault (“Bureaucratic Insanity,” June 20) on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. As an organization that is very familiar with SAMHSA’s work and priorities, we know that their programs are directly relevant to the treatment of individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar illness.
SAMHSA is a leader in the development of technologies to better serve people with severe mental illnesses. Rather than ignoring the problems of mental illness among the homeless and persons in jails or prisons, SAMHSA has set an example in addressing these issues. In fact, these issues, among others of concern for people with severe mental illnesses and their families, are prominently featured in SAMHSA’s newly announced strategic initiatives, which Mr. Torrey references. Initiatives related to trauma and justice, recovery support, and health reform have immediate relevance, while others include components targeted at persons with severe mental illnesses. Contrary to Mr. Torrey’s assertion, SAMHSA is the one federal agency that has sought to correct the errors made in deinstitutionalizing state hospitals. Its longstanding community-support program has provided the template for state and community response to these legacy problems faced by persons with schizophrenia and bipolar illness, and its block-grant funds provide key safety-net services for exactly the same population.
While we agree with Mr. Torrey that research must be a priority, it must never be the only tool for addressing public health needs. We should bridge the “science to services” gap, not widen it, and agencies such as SAMHSA help bridge it.
If we are serious about responding to the diverse needs of individuals with serious mental illnesses, we need to deploy programs and services that SAMHSA offers. They make a critical difference.
David L. Shern
President and CEO, Mental Health America
E. Fuller Torrey Replies: Mr. Shern is indeed “very familiar with SAMHSA’s work,” since SAMHSA is a major funder of his organization. The quality of SAMHSA’s efforts in behalf of severely mentally ill individuals can best be assessed in relationship to three facts. First, these individuals make up at least 30 percent of the homeless population. Second, they now make up approximately 20 percent of inmates in the nation’s jails and prisons. Finally, they are responsible for approximately 10 percent of the nation’s homicides. All three statistics have increased in recent years.