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Foss was right: Mental health services are lacking

Thursday, March 6, 2014
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Foss was right: Mental health services are lacking

In Sara Foss’ Feb. 25 column regarding her friends’ experiences with mental health issues, she noted — accurately — some of the problems with the mental health system that she witnessed. As she stated, in an ideal world, the vast majority of people admitted to psychiatric hospitals would be treated, released and provided with the services they need to live in the community.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. As a matter of fact, at times it is worse, with all of the cutbacks, lack of beds and mental health services (which are always the first to be cut in federal and state budgets) and long waiting lists.

For example, in Schenectady an important program for people experiencing mental health problems — which the state Office of Mental Health should have used as a pilot program — was shut down several years ago. It was a daily meeting place called “Collage” on Upper State Street, where people seeking support, friendship and social action were able to come together. It was a flexible program run mostly by the people themselves. Like any other support group, it was a place to share their situations and engage in meaningful activities and help people get back on their feet.

As Ms. Foss noted, the money from the closures of psychiatric centers should be spent to better serve mental health clients living in the community.

Furthermore, although Kendra’s Law has its place (for those refusing treatment who are a threat to self and/or others), it is not the answer for all of the people with mental health issues who beg for some sort of treatment, housing and immediate attention.

I wish to express my deepest appreciation to Sara Foss for her insight and determined outreach in bringing the situations facing mental health recipients to the public’s attention, and attempting to get answers as how to better serve this particular population.

Flora L. Ramonowski

Schenectady

The writer is a mental health advocate.

Scaffold Law not really strict liability

Unfortunately, your March 1 editorial on the state’s Scaffold Law is inaccurate: It is not a strict liability statute.

Earlier this year I successfully defended against such a case in a jury trial before Judge Barry Kramer. Upon the conclusion of our proof, the jury found the claimant to be a “recalcitrant worker,” and “no-caused” him — sent him away without any funds from the property owner.

A “recalcitrant worker” is one who has safety equipment available and does not use it, or has proper equipment available and does not bother. In other words, the worker is the proximate cause of his own injuries.

At our request, the court also charged the jury that if it found that the worker had been told not to work that day, he was to be considered a recalcitrant worker.

Note also that this law applies only to commercial construction, not to owner-occupied homes of two families or less. It does not apply to the homeowner who hires someone or some company to make repairs to his or her home.

This appears to be another attack on legitimate statutes by the insurance industry: the so-called frivolous lawsuit ruse to insulate insurance carriers from just claims. And if, as you say, there are other avenues for lawsuit, such as wrongful death, what difference does maintaining the statute make?

No, it appears that negligent, careless or cheap builders and their insurance carriers simply want to relegate legitimate claimants to the outdated workers compensation rates. Illegitimate claims can be defended, as we proved earlier this year.

Bruce S. Trachtenberg

Niskayuna

The writer is an attorney.

Make them pay for wrongful convictions

Thank you for your Feb. 25 editorial calling our attention to the issue of wrongful convictions.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s desire to change the law so victims can more easily sue the state is indeed commendable and a major step in opening the door to financially compensating the innocent people we’ve put behind bars.

If we also want to reduce the number of innocent men and women sent to prison and to see that law enforcement officials “get it right,” we need to go one step further. We’ll have to hold responsible the police officers and prosecutors whose acts of commission or omission led to those wrongful convictions.

Until that day, suing the state will only make the rest of us pay — through higher taxes — for their acts.

Paul Rehm

South Westerlo

Seal buildings to stop heat loss and more

This cold winter season has produced a beautiful spectrum of icicles, but they are also the indicator of extensive heat loss through your roof.

While traveling, I see snow-covered roofs without any icicles and this demonstrates that there is minimum heat loss, which indicates proper insulation. Why is this important? Because the best way to save energy is not to use it.

We have choices on how we spend our money. We can spend it on fuel every year, every season (heating and cooling) or we can minimize the fuel we use by keeping a properly sealed envelope of a building. This should be done with professional assistance because as we seal our buildings, toxins won’t be leaking out and perhaps cause secondary health problems.

Energy efficiency, comfortable buildings and healthy air quality can be achieved by participating in a free energy assessment by NYSERDA [New York State Energy Research and Development Authority] and by taking advantage of the incentives they offer.

So this is a perfect season to see where your building stands and to take action. It is like winning a trifecta, save money, energy and be more comfortable.

Joanne Coons

Clifton Park

What’s county doing with Trustco Building?

Re Feb. 26 article, “Trustco building still dark”: Schenectady County leases three buildings for its employees — 797 Broadway, 106 Erie Boulevard and Annie Schaeffer — while the old Trustco building sits empty of employees.

The building is in disrepair. The county uses this $2.4 million building to store worthless old office equipment that no one will ever use. The maintenance department has a workshop there that houses only the county’s large lathes and saws.

Does Schenectady County have so much money that they can pay taxes on an empty building and lease three others? County legislators, what are you going to do about this?

Elaine M. Lagasse

Schenectady

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