First, last, always

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I would like to respond to Rep. Tim Murphy's Dec. 30 Forum piece ("Let Newtown Inspire Action: The Nation Needs More Research on Mental Health"). My question is, if we should find an indicator of possible future violent behavior, what do we do with that information? Children with exceptionalities get labels all the time which come with low expectations attached. Even people who should know better see a label and then have trouble seeing the whole child. It's bad enough for kids with run-of-the-mill, alphabet soup disorders -- ADHD, ASD and the like. Can you imagine a child walking around with a "potential mass murderer" label? Can you imagine being that child's parent or his teacher?

If you think the answer is easily available and effective treatment, I'd suggest you think again -- or ask parents who have tried to get effective treatment for their child. School districts are responsible by law for providing services for children with special needs. Unfortunately, this does not mean providing what an individual child actually needs, only what the district feels is appropriate. If the child's parents or a private clinician feel that the child needs something different, the parents had better be able to afford a lawyer and a whole bunch of expert witnesses to get through the adversarial proceedings to come. And if the parents decide to get private treatment for their child, time to get out the lawyer again -- to deal with their insurance carrier. Treatment for many of these kids is hideously expensive and insurance companies don't want to pay out a cent they aren't forced to.

If we want to prevent future Newtowns, yes, we need sane gun laws (heaven knows) and, yes, we need sound, ethical research, but what we need first, last and always is cooperation among all the people involved in providing the treatment and support our children need. That is what will go furthest in preventing another slaughter of the innocents.

KATHLEEN WOOLDRIDGE
Greenfield


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