Mental illness affects all of society

Mental illnesses do not discriminate. They affect all segments of American society, rich and poor, young and old, white and black, Hispanic and Asian. However, when people of color experience mental health problems, they face countless obstacles to seeking and receiving appropriate care.

Among the barriers to mental health care for minority groups are socioeconomic status, disparities in health insurance coverage and a lack of cultural competency in the mental health field.

Minorities disproportionately represent the ranks of the poor. According to the United States Surgeon General’s recent report on mental health, people in the lowest socioeconomic strata are roughly two-and-a-half times more likely than those in the highest strata to have a mental disorder, and often lack health insurance. A joint report of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows that of the 43 million Americans who have no health insurance, more than 30 percent are Hispanic and 20 percent are African American, compared with 12 percent of Caucasians.

To compound these problems, ethnic and minority groups have a general mistrust of the mental health system, in part because they have been institutionalized at much higher rates than Caucasians. Moreover, experience and cultural identity influence one’s willingness to seek, and ability to respond to, mental health services. Many minorities have different styles of coping with day-to-day problems, and unique perspectives on mental illness and its treatment. Our current system is not prepared to handle such diverse patterns of belief. As the U.S. Surgeon General said in his mental health report, "The U.S. mental health system is not well-equipped to meet the needs of racial and ethnic minority populations."

And the minority population is growing. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates racial minorities will constitute 47 percent of the nation’s population by the year 2005. The Caucasian population, which now represents 75 percent of all Americans, will shrink to a bare majority by 2050. This demographic shift signals the need for the mental health system to address the needs of all consumers, not just the slim majority.

In an effort to eliminate disparities in mental health care in America, many practitioners and health care organizations, including CPC Behavioral Healthcare, are embracing "cultural competency," an effort to effectively respond to culturally specific attitudes and customs in the mental health care setting. Cultural competency also reflects a vision for a just, humane and healthy society in which people are accorded respect, dignity and the opportunity to achieve their full potential, free from stigma and prejudice.

As the face of the nation changes, our mental health system must reflect that change. By working to eliminate the many barriers to care, we can ensure that all Americans, including people of color, have affordable access to mental health services that meet their individual needs.

Jeanne H. Wurmser

President and

chief executive officer

CPC Behavioral Healthcare

Middletown


State’s Clean Car Program applauded

As a resident of New Jersey, I am concerned about our poor air quality. This is especially true now in the summer months, when people with respiratory illnesses like asthma are warned to stay inside on nearly one out of every three days due to high levels of ozone or smog.

I was pleased to know that New Jersey policy makers have introduced legislation to clean up one of the biggest sources of ozone and toxic air pollution in New Jersey: emissions from cars and light trucks. Recognizing the public health benefits of cleaner air, New York and Massachusetts have already adopted this Clean Car Program, which requires manufacturers to sell the cleanest possible cars in those states.

I applaud Sen. Joseph Kyrillos and Assemblymen Samuel Thompson and Joseph Azzolina for their leadership in co-sponsoring the Clean Car legislation, and I hope other legislators in New Jersey will follow their lead. Initiatives like these are what we need here in New Jersey to ensure a safer and healthier environment in which to live.

I hope Jim McGreevey and Bret Schundler will show the same leadership as candidates for governor, and pledge to protect public health in New Jersey by supporting the Clean Car Program and other key environmental health protections.

Dalia Zaza

Clean Car associate

New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG)

Trenton


Senator’s bill appears to favor developers

I am writing to help educate the public on Senate Bill 1099 – Time of Decision. This bill’s sponsor is Sen. Robert W. Singer (R-30), who is currently up for re-election.

The bill proposes, "at the time that an application for development is deemed complete shall govern the review of that application and any decision made with regard to that application."

It also holds, "Any ordinance which is adopted subsequent to the determination of completeness … shall not be applied to any application for development which has been deemed complete prior to the adoption of the ordinance."

When is an application deemed complete? When the application is filed. So as long as the developer fills out the proper paperwork and pays the proper application fee, and submits the required reports, maps and surveys, the application will be deemed complete. Before anyone gets a chance to read a page or review a map, the zoning will be protected under this bill.

With completeness preceding review in the application process, the developer gains an unfair advantage.

Notification to property owners within 200 feet occurs after an application is deemed complete. And why are these property owners notified in the first place?

To provide interested parties the opportunity to review the documents and to announce the date, time and place of the public meeting where questions can be asked and concerns addressed.

Qualifying documentation as factual prior to its review is unconscionable, especially when the documentation is being supplied by the parties who stand to benefit the most from the proposal, the applicant and the applicant’s contracted experts. These people can hardly be thought of as impartial sources.

Moreover, the public is denied the right to be heard and produce evidence that may result in a zoning change, but most importantly, because at this point in the application process the developer’s statements have yet to be reviewed or challenged.

It would allow developers to get approvals years in advance of any concrete plans to develop a piece of land, and provides impunity as to any future planning or zoning change, even when the change is evident in a municipality’s master plan.

The safety and welfare of our local communities are best left in the hands of the local communities who will ultimately bear the consequences of any inappropriate development within their respective boundaries.

Currently municipalities are afforded this right as a matter of course, to enable them to correct ordinance language and close loopholes in existing ordinances. Please contact Sen. Robert Singer to voice your concern.

Janet Gearman

Jackson


Resident extends thanks for Long Branch bus shelter

This is a "thank you" for helping to install a bus shelter for the seniors who wait for NJ Transit buses for transportation out of the city.

I would like to thank Congressman Frank Pallone, Guy Beaver of the Long Branch Police Department, Mrs. Wineck of the mayor’s office, the Long Branch Postmaster David Basile and the Atlanticville.

Pearl N. Wickersham

Long Branch


for the record

In last week’s story on pending road repairs in Long Branch we incorrectly stated that the state Department of Transportation would be partially funding the work. That is wrong. The DOT is providing a low-interest loan to fund the work. We regret the error.


Kill the messenger

After three years of wrangling, the fight between Oceanport residents and the owners and operators of the helipad at the Monmouth Corporate Park has come to an end.

The biggest loser in the saga turns out not to be the residents who suffered from the overhead flights or the owners or operators of the helipad.

The person who comes away from the battle most scarred is now former West Long Branch Zoning Officer Jerome Donlon.

He certainly didn’t rush to his judgment that the helipad was operating in violation of borough zoning ordinances, but after making his determination, he received no support from the officials who hired him.

Rather than stand behind the man they entrusted with the job of zoning officer, the West Long Branch Borough Council quickly moved to undermine him.

First, the council negotiated a settlement that kept in place a facility that has yet to be shown to be operating properly.

The next move (that Donlon and others see as related to the helipad case) was to seek his resignation over another matter.

Finally, when all the delaying tactics were used up, the borough’s prosecutor negotiated a plea agreement that holds the owners of the site blameless and imposes a fine that is probably significantly less than the legal fees they paid fighting the citation.

Through it all, Donlon conducted himself as a professional and sought nothing more than to hold a corporate citizen to the same rules that apply to the rest of the borough.

Jerry Donlon deserved better, and so do the people of West Long Branch.