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Mental health overhaul needed

Their cherubic faces stare back at us from the printed page, or from a computer screen.

They're faces of innocence, of wonder, of mischief never indulged in, of hopes and dreams that will never be recognized, much less fulfilled.

Their wide blue, hazel and brown eyes look back, right through you, to the depths of your soul. Toothless grins tear your heart out.

There's not much anyone can say to ease the anguish of Newtown families.

The epitaphs of the children buried are such sad reading, so full of the "might-have-beens."

Some parents asked the country to resolve to do more to promote love and goodwill.

It's a start.

But the most important legacy we can leave those children is a pledge to understand, identify and effectively treat mental illness.

The debate over gun laws, assault weapons bans and background checks is just a red herring.

So are the debates over school security.

Adam Lanza was mentally ill, plain and simple.

Classmates and family friends all described him as isolated in his own world. Not just strange, but ill.

The United States spends multi-billions of dollars on mental health care a year. It's not enough.

Those costs are eaten up mainly by prescription drugs.

Many patients shun treatment because of the costs or limited access to mental health providers.

We need funding for research, education, treatment, education, research, education.

Seeing a pattern here?

Mental illness rarely improves on its own, and we must not turn a blind eye.

Although there are constitutional impediments to institutionalizing troubled people, we need to open a path of learning, hearing and understanding.

It is the essence of America to breed quirky individualists who march to the tune of a different drummer.

Yeah freedom!

Quirkiness is not what we're talking about.

When our laissez-faire approach to mental illness allows massacres such as what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we still have freedom, all right.

It's the freedom to be horrified.

The American Care Act provides more resources for mental health care, but we need to start with providers willing to see these troubled souls and health care providers willing to cover the expense of treatment.

We need to tear down what many experts call our decrepit mental health infrastructure.

Recognition and treatment are our only hope. Those eyes looking back at us, now from beyond, are counting on it.

Park Rapids Enterprise