Don’t blame the ACLU
A recent letter to the editor rightly criticizing our current mental health system erred in asserting that the American Civil Liberties Union “was instrumental in eliminating mental hospitals as they felt it put a stigma on those receiving treatment in these institutions.”
The writer may have been referring to the ACLU’s 1973 landmark “Willowbrook” case (New York State Association for Retarded Children v. Carey), which became an impetus for a nationwide revolution in the care of mentally challenged people. Willowbrook was an infamous “warehouse” on Staten Island where the mentally ill were routinely restrained, over medicated, neglected, and abused. Robert Kennedy described it as “a snake pit,” and Geraldo Rivera conducted an award-winning investigative report entitled “Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace.”
The ACLU’s class action suit was brought to protect the civil rights of the patients. Its successful conclusion was responsible in part for improved standards of care and oversight mechanisms. Blame for the demise of qualified, well-run mental health institutions rests not with those who assisted victims of the system, but with state and federal funding cutbacks and regressive state policies, like those under Gov. John Engler, that sent mentally ill patients to the streets.
President, ACLU of Northwest Michigan
Chair, Legal Committee, ACLU of Northwest Michigan
Should preserve history
I appreciate Loraine Anderson for being “spot on” regarding Mr. Con Foster and his contributions to the “Queen City of the North.” Her Oct. 6 column detailed the history and enlightened the public regarding the legacy of a man who had a vision for Traverse City.
The engraved “Con Foster” stone should not be covered up and should be displayed as built for everyone to see. Our history is our history and important to every thread that makes up the fabric we call Traverse City, our home.
I cannot believe the Film Festival is allowed to cover up the “Con Foster Museum” building stone. The building was named for Mr. Con Foster and should remain as such. Would we cover up the name Lincoln on his memorial? We have a rich history and we should preserve it by not following the yellow brick road.