I have been following The Tribune’s coverage of the proposed private mental health inpatient facility in Templeton with some interest, culminating with the Sunday editorial. There is no question the county could benefit from having a quality behavioral health facility. However, you seem to skim over some areas of very real concern: the distant and uncertain quality of Vizion Health LLC, and the “for-profit” nature of the proposed facility. These were mentioned in passing, along with worries about traffic and water, and I must admit to a degree of discomfort with this.
In a “for-profit” setting, the primary responsibility of the administration and staff is to maximize profit. This is their fiduciary responsibility to the owners/investors/stockholders, and while I have no particular concern when the product is a television set, an automobile, or a box of strawberries, I do have concern when the product is the health, and by extension, lives of human beings, particularly those who may have diminished mental capacities. Strictly speaking, “for-profit” decisions should be settled in favor of profit, rather than patient welfare. This can be, and sometimes is, ameliorated with appropriately objective and diligent oversight. But it is important that such oversight be done by those who have absolutely no financial or other personal interest in the management of such a facility.
There is also very real potential danger of any such facility overemphasizing the use of psychotropic medications. It is easier and a lot cheaper. When dealing with severe mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia), appropriate medication is a vital part of the treatment regimen. However, there is considerable controversy over the use of many of these drugs, all of which have very powerful and, as yet, poorly understood effects on brain chemistry, especially on the undeveloped brains of children and adolescents, as well as the sometimes vulnerable brains of elderly patients, as well as other adults.
In all, I agree with the tenor of your editorial. That there is a need for an appropriate inpatient behavioral health facility in San Luis Obispo County can hardly be denied. The fears of some Templeton residents about the dangers presented by mental health patients, while understandable, are unrealistic. I also feel, however, that the solution to this need should be evaluated very carefully and objectively, so it doesn’t result in another, potentially worse problem, and that the welfare of potential patients is of paramount concern.
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Loren D. Acord, San Luis Obispo