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Dona Ana Leadership Adds Insult to Injury

IT WOULD BE so refreshing if our elected officials could help reduce the stigma of mental illness, instead of perpetuate it.

In their letter “The Mental Health Challenge,” two Doña Ana County Commissioners lament how the Doña Ana County Detention Center has “had to change in order to accommodate people with mental illness.” If only they didn’t have to bother with those pesky little details called civil rights.

They imply the reason for Stephen Slevin’s deteriorated physical and mental condition upon his release from two years of solitary confinement was because they couldn’t force him to bathe, trim his toenails, shave or use a dentist. Really?

They remind us that Doña Ana County does not run a mental hospital. Thank heaven for small favors.

They state that many mentally ill prisoners commit petty crimes so they can access services at their facility. Again, really? Who would want that kind of care?

They “now know that Slevin was mentally ill when he was taken into the detention center in 2005.” Really? It took two years with him in solitary confinement to determine that?


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One of the “constructive changes” they would like to see happen is to reduce the time mentally ill people are held at the detention center. On the surface this seems like a reasonable objective, but after reading their letter I can’t help but wonder: Are they thinking of how that would benefit the mentally ill, or themselves?

Then as if all this isn’t offensive enough, they try to justify their appeal of the jury verdict that awarded Slevin $22 million by claiming they are trying to minimize the impact of this case on county residents. What about minimizing the impact of this case on Slevin? While they claim to be sympathetic toward Slevin and recognize that his treatment was problematic, they do not believe the award is justified. Really?

And they wonder why this case has resulted in people responding with “outrage and pointed criticism of the county.”