Letter to the Editor: Criminal justice system can't cope with mental health problems

Holly Blair, the embattled councilmember from the City of Lemoore, is not getting support from the very community most likely to sympathize with her plight.

According to news reports, Ms. Blair drove recklessly and endangered at least two lives in the process.  She supposedly entered the back area of the Lemoore Police Department while a group was gathering to support mental health awareness.  One of the victims that day had a tragedy in her family directly related to a mental health issue.

Ms. Blair’s attorney immediately recognized she was unable to understand the nature of the court proceedings or assist in her own defense.  The judge appointed a doctor to evaluate her mental condition. Unfortunately, there was no mechanism to stop Ms. Blair, before her mental state deteriorated to the point of her almost killing an innocent person.

While the actions of Ms. Blair are egregious, the criminal justice system is not able to help someone with a mental health problem.  Perhaps society is okay with locking up the mentally ill, thus eliminating them from participating in our narrow scope of reality.  But maybe mental health issues need to be addressed just like any other medical condition, thus providing treatment instead of punishment.  Society certainly would not incarcerate a person because they had a broken arm.  But then again, someone with only a broken arm would not drive recklessly through a parking lot full of people.

The victims in the Holly Blair case should be advocating for her to get treatment if she has a mental health condition.  They know the destruction mental health problems create.  Support for Ms. Blair would provide a forum to make the community aware of mental health issues in our society, which is why the group gathered behind the Lemoore Police Department in the first place.


Gregory Blevins

(Note:  Gregory Blevins is an attorney in private practice and is a Doctoral Candidate in Public Administration at the University of La Verne.  He currently serves as a member on the Kings County Mental Health Advisory Board.)

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