Mental health resource shortage needs action

January 18, 2013

Ask anyone involved in the local medical community about the availability of mental health practitioners in Sussex County, and the answer will be almost universal. We have a serious shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists to serve our population.

The issue continues to gain prominence in the atmosphere of the many sexual abuse crimes we've witnessed over the past few years. Those crimes run the gamut from inappropriate contact with minors to rape and murder. Mental health issues provide the common thread.

When the final legal settlement was signed to help bring closure and healing to the families and victims of Earl Bradley's crimes, there must have been a collective sigh of relief in Legislative Hall in Dover.

While the ultimate outcome of the settlement was still very much in doubt, there were discussions among legislators about whether the state should be involved financially in setting up an assistance fund. Driving those discussions were concerns that prior to Bradley's arrest, state agencies involved in oversight and enforcement may not have been appropriately responsive to complaints about the doctor.

Standing behind the state's shield of sovereign immunity may have deflected those discussions, but was that the right position?

Bradley and his deranged mind are locked away; the victims have been awarded resources to help them cope, and the state avoided being part of the settlement equation. But no one is so naive as to think that the mental health issues of our larger community have somehow been addressed. To the contrary, the recent massacre of elementary children in Connecticut has added even more fuel to the mental health debate.

Delaware can handle some gun concerns with regulation, but it will take money to increase mental health screening, recruit more psychologists and psychiatrists, and even fast-track educate some of the unemployed college graduates to begin quickly filling the obvious mental health void in Sussex .

Setting up a multimillion-dollar program, with funds that under circumstances less favorable to the state may have been required to address the Bradley issue, could make a real difference in improving the serious mental health resource shortage in Sussex.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Dave Frederick, sports editor.