Friday, November 16, 2012


Star-Advertiser: state response to fixing suicide hotline is “woeful and unduly sluggish”

by Larry Geller

The Star-Advertiser editorial today took up the critical issue of the state Department of Health’s deadly neglect to maintain and properly operate the state suicide prevention hotline. The editors are correct in describing the problem as an emergency, and they also make it clear that the DOH does not yet think so.

Here is a snip of their summary of the situation:

Dr. William Sheehan, chief of the state Health Department's Adult Mental Health Division, has said his office is "getting permission and approval to make things better," but how and when is not clear.

His hope of coming up with solutions by June — a full half-year away — is woeful and unduly sluggish, considering the possible life-or-death consequences in some cases.

[Star-Advertiser p. A17, Move faster to fix suicide hotline, 11/16/2012]

The editorial is correct in criticizing the handling of this situation under Dr. William Sheehan (see about half-way down in Under-reporting the news allows government to get away with murder, 11/12/2012 where the discussion of the crisis hotline begins).

We, as concerned citizens, should not accept that avoidable deaths will be allowed to take place as the DOH leisurely talks about remedying what has truly been a long-running emergency and neglectful stewardship. The editors are correct, in my view, in describing his reaction as “woeful and unduly sluggish.”

We’re talking human lives here. I want to emphasize that. Also, if one must supplement a moral imperative with economic consequences, as the editorial also describes it’s far cheaper for the state to provide assistance to avoid suicide attempts than to bear the hospitalization costs by doing nothing.


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