Letters to the Editor, Oct. 22, 2011

Fri, 10/21/2011 - 5:13pm

To: the Editor—

On October 6, a federal agency issued a report on estimates of adult mental illness in the 50 states and DC. (From the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, HHS, with the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.)

Rhode Island ranked number 1 of all states, with the highest percentage of the adult population experiencing mental illness in the past year. The rate was 24.2 percent in Rhode Island. “Mental illness” was defined as disorders that meet DSM-IV criteria (from the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

The report also considered the number of adults with “serious mental illness,” defined as illnesses that substantially interfere with major life activities and in urgent need of treatment. For example, the most common conditions of generalized anxiety disorder or moderate depression are “mental illness,” while major depression, agoraphobia, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia would be considered “serious mental illness.” In the category of serious mental illness, Rhode Island again ranked number 1 in the nation, with 7.2 percent of adults experiencing serious mental illness in the past year.

I do not know why Rhode Island ranks so high, but if we assume that Block Island’s population is consistent with the state, it suggests that our winter population includes about 55 to 60 adults in urgent need of treatment. Since I’ve heard people guess that we might have 10 people with serious problems, the notion that perhaps 60 Block Islanders cannot function because of mental illness may come as a shock.

At present, a person with serious mental illness cannot get medical treatment for that condition on the island. Such a person cannot have appropriate medication prescribed or administered on the island. This is no one’s fault; it’s just a consequence of being a small town cut off by water. But there is hope. The need for services can be addressed. This problem has been a major focus of the Mental Health Task Force since its inception last winter. We are still working on the problem with a variety of agencies and would welcome new volunteers to the task force. We hope to find a way to bring mental health practitioners to the island and/or allow local practitioners to work under the supervision of a mainland psychiatrist.

Nationally, 40 percent of those with serious mental illness received no treatment at all last year. If you add to this ratio the difficulty of convincing them to go to the mainland and take a whole day to get treatment, the percentage who receive no treatment is probably higher on the island. If you would like to work the issue of making treatment available, please contact me or any member of the task force.

Steve Hollaway

Harbor Church, Fountain Square


To: the Editor—

Is it customary for the Block Island Times to print the remote criminal record of an individual when reporting on a contemporary, relatively minor infraction?

You did so when reporting on John Rule in the Police Log of the October 15 issue. I for one believe that publicizing long past adjudicated misdeeds unrelated to current issues is both unfair and prejudicial, irrespective of the source of the information.

Arnold L. Licht, MD

Cooneymus Road


To: the Editor—

There were two observations that seemed pretty glaring on how our voting process went Tuesday night and I wonder if we really did right for our policemen.

As you know the vote was very close and in favor of using Violette’s money, intended for rental housing for police, by buying property for policemen to rent. During the first hand-raising vote, it almost looked, in my opinion, like 90 percent in favor. In fact, I raised my hand in favor, but I changed it when the call for a paper ballot went out.

I changed it when I found out a little more information that was unknown to me and the rest of the audience and was never brought up during the discussion. I wonder if other folks changed their vote when the call for a paper ballot went out because now nobody would know how they voted and they wouldn’t be looked upon as an “upstart” and be looked upon unfavorably by their neighbors? That was my first observation.

Were the police asked if they thought it was a good idea or if they could afford the rent and utility expenses that they may have to come up with if the current rent prices remain in effect? It is my understanding that there is a police officer with a wife and two children currently living in an apartment where the rent includes utilities. With his current salary, as a full time police officer, can he afford the extra $400 to $600 a month to live in that property that the town will buy? I would venture to say it would be a very heavy burden and he might look for cheaper housing. Perhaps that $500,000 would have been better spent as a housing allowance or stipend for policemen? Will the town make this rental housing affordable for police officers? Remember that if the police officer can’t afford the rent with the utilities as an extra cost (which also can be very expensive here), it can be offered to another town employee who may be able to afford it. Then the question becomes, did we do right for our police officers? That was Violette’s real intention. In my opinion, we did not and if there is anyway we can re-look and re-think this, we should.

Bob Perry

Spring Street


To: the Editor—

What a surprise to read Sonny Kern’s letter to the editor in the October 8th issue of the Block Island Times.

We have worshiped with Sonny and Carol at the Harbor Church for about 30 years and have served on numerous committees with them.

We had no clue that Sonny was living with a bipolar condition. He has always been on hand to help out in most any situation and has been most kind and gentle.

We are happy to count Sonny and Carol as our constant friends.

We can only thank Sonny and congratulate him for sharing his situation so personally and to advocate for the ministry on the island to those others with mental health needs.

Thank you Sonny for encouraging this compassionate outreach ministry.

And thank you Steve Hollaway for your efforts to serve those in such need on our island.

Frankie and Gordon Smith

Corn Neck Road


To: the Editor—

It’s a lovely fall Sunday afternoon, and I greet the handful of shoppers wandering through my shop on Water Street on this gorgeous day, providing information on where to eat, what to do and answering the frequent comment, “So I guess this is your last day open,” in the friendliest way, saying that I will be open often between now and Christmas, and online all year.

When I get a free moment and open the Block Island Times and see the headline, “They Just Don’t Get Tourism at the Statehouse,” I have to wonder if they get it at the paper, either, when I read, “We can easily find parking downtown (if there’s any reason to go there).”

Shouldn’t we be promoting the shoulder season and those hardworking small business owners that are still open in the “off-season”? And shouldn’t the paper — especially in an editorial supposedly criticizing the state for failing to support the tourism industry on which we depend — provide some props to the businesses that are open, instead of promoting the idea that there’s nothing open and nothing to do?

It’s true that the state should spend more to get tourists here during “the season,” but the paper — which relies on the advertising dollars of the businesses downtown — should be aware that not every store shuts down on Columbus Day weekend.

Jon MacKenzie, Block Island Trading Company

Water Street


To: the Editor—

I write to comment on the remarks of Mr. Mooney, which appeared in the October 15 issue of the Times.

The town’s capable solicitor, Ms. Merolla, gave the council and the town valuable advice, in which she stressed the value of fee simple ownership vs. a right of way for the paper road that is the extension of Cooneymus. The state Coastal Resources Management Council does not own or maintain the right of way; its role is to ensure that the public (us) has access to the shore. As one approaches the shore in any location, CRMC and the state Department of Environmental Management have restrictions on the activities that can take place.

Ms. Merolla also informed us that the road would be where the council deems the road to be, and that if we were able to gain ownership of the land under the road, the issue of “where it is” would be settled, once and for all. That is a real benefit. In addition, careful review of all the history and maps indicates that the current path that leads to the shore is consistent with where the road was in years past.

This has been a long, tedious process, which has occupied many more hours of discussion and dollars of legal fees than it should have. We have reached a good solution, and Mr. Mooney asks who benefits. As council members, our responsibility is to make decisions in the best interests of the citizens of Block Island. We have done that. Going forward, the town will own the right of way and the land under it. The route has been established, now and for the future. The legal bills will stop for all involved. That should answer Mr. Mooney’s question.

Peter Baute, Town Council

Peckham Farm Road


To: the Editor—

Every now and again something wonderful, and unexpected, happens to the teachers and students at the Block Island School. Such was the case last week when the teachers in kindergarten through grade five received very generous gift certificates from the Island Bound bookstore to purchase books and materials for use in their classrooms.

This bounty was the result of a kind and thoughtful group of women who were helping island residents, and twin sisters, Susan Bush and Laura Parsons celebrate their birthday. Susan and Laura suggested that instead of buying them gifts, the women do something charitable in their names. Thank you to Sharon Weinberg, Ruth Perfido, Sharon Lehman, Phyllis Wender, and Jean Cleary, all of whom have island ties and generous hearts.

Thanks to their creativity and generosity, island children in grades kindergarten through 5 will have their literary lives further enriched. The elementary teaching staff is appreciative of their kindness and we are inspired by their spirit.

Deborah Hart

Laurie McTeague

Barbara Michel

Judy Durden

Kristine Monje

Bonnie Swienton

Cindy Lasser