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EPD and Mental Health



Michael Johnson, a top pick for Eureka police chief (Blog Jammin', Aug. 8) and Mayor Frank Jager belittled people who contacted the city with concerns about Mr. Johnson's involvement with the 2006 Cheri Lyn Moore shooting. Questioners are described as "a very small group with their own agenda" (Johnson) and "certainly those half dozen people don't speak for the whole community" (Jager).

In 2011 the City of Eureka held public meetings to get guidance about qualities to look for in Garr Nielsen's replacement. My husband and I went to one of the sessions representing NAMI-Humboldt (National Alliance on Mental Illness.) Official notes from those sessions include 10 references to mental illness issues.

After all that input, I was taken aback to read in the Times-Standard that the city's choice was an officer who fatally shot Cheri Lyn Moore, a mentally ill woman brandishing a flare gun. Following Moore's death, our group worked with mental health staff and police to increase training for first responders who deal with that population. Groups of 30 or more each year attend crisis intervention training sessions.

I respect first responders and can think of many times when I've felt safer thanks to the presence of a policeman or woman. Maybe Johnson, who has withdrawn from the hiring process, could have been an effective police chief for Eureka. I'm skeptical, but I could give him the benefit of the doubt if he reached out to the mental health community. That would take a level of respect and communication not shown by writing off those who dare to raise concerns. Those who speak out usually represent others who didn't call or email. Mental illness affects the lives of one in four adults in the U.S. NAMI's website states: "NAMI works every day to save every life."

This is the "agenda."

Debbe Hartridge, Arcata

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