Thomasville Times Enterprise

Opinion

April 3, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: So now he wants to visit!

— Gosh, election time is near. You can tell from Gov. Nathan Deal’s visit on Tuesday.

The governor comes to Thomasville now, after closing Southwestern State Hospital? The damage to our economy is done now. About 650 jobs were lost and citizens once receiving treatment are now roaming the streets and neighborhoods without proper treatment.

Deal continues to say that the closure resulted from a U.S. Department of Justice edict that said patients in Georgia mental hospitals must be “deinstitutionalized.” That is not the truth! The mandate was for the developmental disabled (mental retarded) to be “deinstitutionalized.” It said nothing about the mentally ill and substance abuse programs.

I note that Frank Berry says “Everything is not working perfectly.” He is right about that. Just recently, news reports told of the problems relating to the closure of Southwestern, such as people roaming the streets and the homeless shelters are completely full. Also, in some of the 24 counties previously served by Southwestern for mental illness and substance abuse, the jails and emergency rooms are experiencing problems. Do you think that is progress?

There are a few, but not many, as Berry said, that are working at Georgia Pines who did work at Southwestern. There are approximately 500 people unemployed now, looking for a job, but no jobs are available. I see many of these people who were dedicated workers. They are now desperate and on government assistance programs. I also see family members of previously treated patients who now complain that treatment is not available.

I have no way of knowing what is going on at the newly established facilities, but I do listen. As a former member of the Human Rights Committee and the Ethics Committee at Southwestern until it closed, I have been very dedicated in insuring that patients’ rights were protected and have always been an advocate for the mentally ill and substance abusers, and I will continue to be supportive.

We need senators and representatives in the 24-county area once served by Southwestern to know that their supporters look to them to insure what is best for our district. So, what have they done for your district? Governor, what have you done for our community?

Yes, election time is here. Fellow citizens, what are you going to do on election day? That ballot is your voice!

Everyone is urged to vote in the upcoming primary. Early voting begins April 28 and the election is May 20. Make your voice be heard.

Barbara M. Collins

Thomasville

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