Opinion: How not to do things

POSTED: 01/10/12 3:10 PM

It seems that nobody is safe anymore in the Netherlands. The Rutte-cabinet announced €240 million ($305 million) of budget cuts on support programs for people with minor mental handicaps. The measure by Public Health State Secretary Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten will affect people with an IQ between 70 and 85.

Parents and social workers say the measure is disastrous. Healthcare organizations presented a white paper to the director for long-term care at the Ministry of Public Health yesterday. The report notes that people with a slight mental handicap are unable to manage without supervision. The social consequences of the austerity measures will be significant, the organizations warn. Many people who will be affected by the measure have other problems, like behavioral disorders. Without supervision there is a significant chance that they begin committing crimes, or that they start drinking and doing drugs. The costs of such behavior, the organizations say, is much higher than the $305 million the state secretary now wants to take out of the budget.

Veldhuijzen van Zanten’s initiative seems a nice example of how not to do things. It is a message St. Maarten ought to take notice of as well. We are fortunate these days to have a Mental Health Foundation that takes care of approximately 500 people with mental health problems. As director Eileen Hailey told this newspaper when we named her our Person of the Year 2011, most of these people are working. But they do need the supervision, and they do need treatment. Otherwise they may lose their job and with it, their perspective. When that happens, these citizens will become what others experience as “a nuisance.” But if we do not give them the care they need, such nuisance is a situation of our own making.

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