Valley News -

Ignoring the fires of mental illness


Last updated 8/16/2018 at 9:35am

This summer Riverside County has been victimized by two massive wildland fires: The Cranston Fire (Idyllwild) and the Holy Fire (Lake Elsinore). I say victimized because both fires were started by Arsonists. These fires were not the result of global warming or climate change it is not the homebuilders or development community that is to blame, it is not individual homeowners who pay taxes and chose to live their lives in a tranquil place surrounded by nature’s wonders. Weather it is the view of Lake Elsinore or the tall pines in Idyllwild people have the right to enjoy their property and feel safe in it. While our Public Safety professionals have done an amazing job defending lives and property it has come with a staggering cost.

The Alleged Arsonists in both these fires have been arrested and charged. The criminal justice system will now take over, but perhaps it didn’t have to get to this point. As we learn more about these individuals we will be forced to bear witness to their sad decent out of reality as they succumb to their illness. We will no doubt hear from their family and friends that there were signs growing up that something was not right. And we will learn of their interactions with the Law Enforcement Community. Over time the picture that is liable to be painted is one of isolation and alienation as the System had no place for these individuals. And thanks to the good works of the American Civil Liberties Union, the threshold for non-voluntary mental health incarceration is so high – it literally takes a catastrophic event before someone who is struggling with mental illness can get the help they need (over their own objections) and the public can be protected from the results of their dangerous behavior.

We need change, we need to stop running from the effects of mental illness and embrace solutions that protect the public and serve the needs of the individuals and families who have to struggle in silence. We need leadership from our State and Federal partners to address this ever-growing public health crisis. If you don’t agree, just take a moment to safely observe the behavior of some in our current homeless population. They need our help and we deserve protection before the next violent act of madness.

Bob Magee

Lake Elsinore City Councilman


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