Mentally Challenged

System failure: I would like to thank Paul Rubin for his tragic story about the horrible fate of the Aviles family ("Blood on Their Hands," October 14). Arizona has failed seriously mentally ill adults for more than 20 years now, and it scares me to think how many people are released from inpatient facilities well before they are anywhere close to healthy.

In 1999, someone I cared about very much was admitted into the Maricopa Medical Center for symptoms similar to Rodney Aviles'. He was delusional, paranoid, threatening, and quite clearly a threat to himself and others. He was involuntarily committed for six days, given buckets full of anti-psychotic medication, and released to my care (I was a single 22-year-old woman). He attempted suicide 10 days later.

The tragedy of mental illness is that unless and until society begins to recognize it as the real and serious threat that it is, it will never be fully funded, and desperate families like the Avileses and mine will be fighting for the most basic and humane treatment for our loved ones.

What happened to the Avileses can happen to any of us, take my word for it. Finding yourself seriously mentally ill in Arizona might as well be a death sentence.

I would urge people to call Governor Janet Napolitano and the Legislature and demand that they fully fund services for seriously mentally ill adults in Arizona, as ordered by the Supreme Court more than 20 years ago. And pray for those of us who deal with these issues every day.
Name withheld by request

A judgment call: Congratulations on your article on the Aviles case. I am retired now, but for more than 50 years I was a forensic psychiatrist in Phoenix. The case you cite is complicated by a lack of decision-making in dealing with what sounds like a chronic paranoid psychotic individual who is also an antisocial personality. Further complicating matters is the involvement of both the correctional and mental-health systems.

There is no doubt from your article that this is a very dangerous individual, and the psychiatrists involved now would be well advised, for their legal protection, to release the person only in response to a court order; a judge has immunity for his decisions, but doctors are liable for mistakes in judgment.

My opinion is that there is a trend in the mental-health system to overlook or minimize dangerousness in patients who have a history of dangerous acts. There is pressure from administrators to discharge patients who haven't done anything dangerous recently, and a tendency on the part of some judges to release patients using the same excuse.

What must be remembered is that there is no such thing as too careful.
John W. Marchildon, M.D., Phoenix

Mock the Vote

Held recountable: Thank God for New Times! Since the Arizona Repugnant refuses to show us how our votes may not be counted, it has again become your responsibility to educate us ("Election Eve Nightmare," John Dougherty, October 14).

It has come to my attention that thousands of registration forms have not been entered into the voter database yet. That means more disenfranchised people. As the Democratic nominee for the District 20 House of Representatives seat, I have turned in forms for supporters only to find they never got officially registered.

Peter Weisskopf (the voter-registration person for District 20 Dems) tells me he feels the Maricopa County Recorder's Office displays contempt for voters. Makes you wonder.

Now we see that, in a best-case scenario, 489 votes were not counted in the September Republican Primary in District 20? Many local elections are decided by fewer votes than that! In this case, you can only hope the recount total was right rather than the initial count of 489 fewer votes.

What's the worst-case scenario in this situation? Ballot tampering, since the possibility of a machine error that high is improbable.

And people wonder why we don't trust the government!
Jim Torgeson, Democratic candidate for House District 20

A vigilant media: "Election Eve Nightmare" was a great column! Glad John Dougherty is so attentive and that he understands the process and the issues so well.

The only problem is the conclusion. The feds are not prepared to intervene. A General Accounting Office report released recently says that the Justice Department is ill-prepared to handle a large influx of complaints about voting rights violations in the November 2 presidential election.

Vigilance by the press and the nonprofits will be the only way to get this right. Keep on watching and writing.
Jo-Anne Chasnow, Project Vote

Recount your blessings: Thanks for the great column on the District 20 fiasco! There clearly needs to be a thorough investigation of optical scanners. I have requested such an investigation.

As you are now well aware, Arizona's paper ballots do not guarantee accuracy of the count. Legislation is needed to require routine random election-day verification testing in order to catch errors and better understand the behavior of these machines.

I worked last year to develop such legislation, but Secretary of State Jan Brewer and county elections chief Karen Osborne were opposed, and it went nowhere. I intend to keep trying.
Tom Ryan, Arizona Citizens for Fair Elections

Differing Views

Lack of knowledge: Your column "Janet's Missed Opportunity" (John Dougherty, October 7) shows your tragic lack of knowledge about polygamy. Your vision seems to be so clouded by prejudice that you appear to be walking in darkness at high noon.

I was born and raised in Colorado City in a very large, wonderful family. I saw nothing of the horrors you speak of in fundamentalist Mormonism. My greatest fear as a child was that the government would try again to rip our families apart.

As I got older, I became aware that there were a few people, like Flora Jessop, who had suffered abuses. Of course, I was shocked and horrified that such things could happen. Take it from someone on the inside: such abuses are not products of polygamy. If they are, then why is there so much of it in your monogamous society? Talk about a snake pit!

As I watch the news, I see far greater atrocities committed among monogamous people than I ever could have imagined in my own society. If you are able to prove any such cases in Colorado City, they are not the product of polygamy but of humans who err.

When you speak of Governor Napolitano's "refusal" to take meaningful action to end rampant sexual abuse, degradation of women, exploitation of youth, welfare and education fraud, and tax evasion, I would suggest that you step back a moment and look at these snake pits in monogamous society. Perhaps the governor has her hands too full trying to address those very issues in your community.

Also, I would like to correct another error. Centennial Park is definitely not controlled by the fundamentalist Mormon church, and never has been. We in Centennial Park have been trying for some time now to be a tool to help educate the public about our lifestyle. With so much prejudice and so many lies out there, it is an uphill battle for us.

One bit of news you might be happy to know is that the mainstream Mormon church [headquartered in Salt Lake City] has not been a silent, unconcerned observer of the fundamentalist people. It has actively supported many efforts against fundamentalist groups.

Believe me when I say we have heard loud and clear the yell: "Help is on the way!" From my standpoint, the only help I would like is to be able to live unmolested by prejudiced do-gooders, politicians and news reporters.

Monogamy holds no charm for me. I know, because I have experienced it, and I am confident it has nothing to offer me that could compare with the kind of love and security that I have known as a daughter, wife and mother in polygamy. Please help those who actually need help, but don't waste your time trying to break something so you can fix it your way. I'm happy to be me.
Marlyne Hammon, Centennial Park

The governor should be more aware: I am a state employee, and I recently received a package of information touting October as "Domestic Violence Awareness Month." This information is distributed every year at the request of the Governor's Office and is intended to provide information to victims of domestic violence explaining what to do and where to go for safety.

I find it ironic that Governor Napolitano proclaimed October 20 as "Domestic Violence Awareness Day" while ignoring the women and children in the fundamentalist Mormon communities in northern Arizona. These women and children may or may not be suffering the traditional domestic battery associated with domestic violence, but they are suffering from domestic violence nonetheless.

Governor Napolitano, of all people, should realize that something needs to be done about these communities in our state. The people running things there should feel it where it hurts, which means the governor needs to cut off their funding. If these communities want to live in a manner that violates the law, no government has any business condoning their lifestyle by subsidizing their resources. The fundamentalist church chooses not to bend to the state, but it has no qualms about accepting money from the state.

The governor also needs to step up the involvement of state Child Protective Services in these communities and get those children, including teenage "brides" and discarded males, away from these sick and abusive people.

But, instead, the governor is kowtowing to Mormon leadership in the Legislature by entertaining ideas of restoration and gentrification to benefit Mormon religious sites at the Arizona taxpayers' expense. Governor Napolitano apparently doesn't realize that not all her constituents are Mormon.

That Domestic Violence Awareness Month package received by my office includes purple ribbons to wear to highlight the problem. What color ribbon would Napolitano like people to wear to make them aware of the emotional abuse suffered by the women and children in Arizona's polygamous communities?

I'd like to commend John Dougherty on his vigilance. His articles -- and not just the polygamy pieces -- are always direct. He knows how to ask the right questions.
Name withheld by request


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