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Earl Strinden, Grand Forks, Published January 31 2013

Letter: A public policy change is needed

There are three words that directly relate to recent tragic happenings in our nation. The words, “least restrictive environment” by law dramatically changed public policy regarding individuals suffering serious and major mental illness. Certainly there are unfortunate examples of individuals being confined who should not have been. These mistakes should never be repeated. At the same time, the current public policy makes it almost impossible to confine or mandate treatment for mentally disturbed individuals who are a danger to themselves and to others. Tragically, recent happenings make this all too apparent.

It was many years ago when I attended a public policy conference at which the mayors of New York City, Philadelphia and Houston spoke to the serious and dangerous problems of mentally ill individuals released from confinement. Most of them refused to accept and take the free medication made available to them.

As so often happens, the administration and Washington, D.C., solution ignores what has created this serious national problem and instead focuses on political-driven objectives which makes good talking points but accomplishes little else.

We need to face up to mandatory treatment and confinement for serious and dangerous mental disorders. This means changing the public policy that gives every individual their least restrictive environment.

This will not correct all the threats of harm and violence but it is a necessary step.

Strinden is former majority leader of the North Dakota House of Representatives.