The Friday (Dec. 24, 2004) EO editorial only came close to the bull's eye: "It's also reassuring to see that all the players involved in this turmoil have kept their sights on client care."

Please, let's not lose sight of the fact that county Mental Health has been in a crisis state not for just five months, but for more than two years.

Doesn't crisis sound like an "emergency" to you? It might if you were a client or their friends and relations.

Alas, each run-up to the "crisis" in ethics or procedure the EO often reported the sorry details, yet ended with a confident quote about the eventual outcome.

Isn't a newspaper's responsibility to challenge leaders to answer probing questions that the facts imply?

The crux of the story is why the county commissioners allowed services to 600 of our friends, relatives and neighbors to bottom out for more than two years. Unlocking the truth within a factual context could have hastened needed change.

Putting the 3D medical contract scandal aside, let's take the all-important issue behind hiring a medical director, the primary complaint preventing recertification.

What possessed commissioners after all that time to hire a man without a valid medical license and could not get one?

The advisory board most certainly did not recommend commissioners even interview this man. Why didn't the EO report that?

The commissioners' answer was that they didn't approve an appropriate salary to attract a qualified medical director because nobody else in county government made that much money. Wasn't it their job to know what a competent medical director should be paid - and adjust their expectations accordingly?

Because commissioners did not make clients a "priority," local citizens, consumers and advisers grabbed the ears of state and shouted "we need a change at the helm."

Readers should be inspired by the fact that no sooner did the state take over, than we learned about local consumers stepping in to help build a drop-in center - the details of which will be "driven by the local residents who use it."

Kudos to the advisory board and the consumers for taking ownership of our mental health services. This shows, again that democracy works much better when citizens who are properly informed stay involved.

May these and other good folks continue to ask our leaders questions that need answers.

Ben Talley

Pendleton

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