Weyler's comments show his ignorance

Last modified: 3/30/2011 12:00:00 AM
Republican Rep. Ken Weyler has represented the residents of Kingston and surrounding towns in the Legislature for two decades. Given the ignorant and malicious statements Weyler made this week about mentally ill people and those who care for them, voters in those communities should question whether 12 terms is enough.

Weyler, a retired airline pilot, chairs the House Finance Committee, which starved Gov. John Lynch's bony budget to an emaciated form that House lawmakers will vote on tomorrow. The committee's budget proposal brought hundreds of people to the State House in recent weeks to tell legislators how the massive cuts would affect them. One of those cuts would result in the termination of mental health services for 4,000 adults and 3,400 children, roughly half of all those now getting help.

On Monday, mental health professionals held a press conference to discuss the stories of 100 people who were helped by receiving services and what would likely happen if they could no longer get treatment. They planned to distribute the stories to lawmakers. Weyler's response, when asked about mental health service cuts, suggests some have a lot to learn.

Republican leaders on the Finance Commitee have been unsympathetic to the plight of the mentally ill and, in Weyler's case, insulting and hostile toward those who treat their illnesses.

Weyler accused the mental health care system of encouraging people to "become patients for life," and of using "scare tactics" to keep their state funding coming. Worse still, Weyler told Monitor State House reporter Karen Langley that mental health professionals, when confronted with a severely ill person, might decide not to help.

"If they find someone who is really a danger to themselves or others, but don't try to stabilize them, and they say 'Aha, this guy is going to go out and do something really strange, but if we turn him away, we can say, ah, we were right, you cheap bums.' " Thus with one statement, Wyler managed to impugn the integrity of the medical profession, accuse health-care professionals of deliberately harming patients for personal gain, and breaking the law and their own code of ethics.

Mental health practitioners, Weyler said, could "cure" more patients but that would hurt them financially. But mental illness is not an infection that can be cured or a broken bone that can heal. Mental health professionals rarely if ever speak in terms of "cures" and talk instead of treatments that can help people manage their illness.

Weyler went on to insult women and mental health workers by saying that mothers suffering post-partum depression would simply get over it in a year, once their babies "get a little more animated," a medical viewpoint that sounds like it came from an 18th-century textbook. And he claimed that mental health centers turn post-partum sufferers into patients for life, a statement that's simultaneously a falsehood, an insult and a medical absurdity.

Weyler's constituents should consider what their representative's bizarre and mean-spirited statements say about the people who elected him.

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