As a lifelong resident of Las Vegas and reader of the Optic I have never felt so compelled to write a letter to the editor as I did after reading Mr. Dale Harapat’s letter in the Dec. 2 issue of the Optic. As a retired social worker and nationally registered Guardian, I felt it necessary to address his misguided concern.
I must commend the Plaza Task Force for having the wisdom to remove his narrow-minded recommendation in the final draft. I refer to his recommendation of “daily and consistent foot patrol police officers to regularly be seen for safety in the Plaza-Bridge Street area. We have a number of mental health patients in this part of town that ask for money or bother customers.”
We are fortunate to have the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas. It is Las Vegas’ largest employer. To oldtimer’s like me, it is fondly known as the State Hospital or “El Asilo.” Many family generations have been or are still employed there. These same people shop Las Vegas. Because of the NMBHI we have the privilege of knowing, working and living alongside mental health consumers. We know them as human beings, not to be feared or bothered by. Las Vegas has a long history of being accepting of the mentally ill, a fact not many other cities can boast. I am hoping Mr. Harapat is not working at changing this.
Las Vegas and San Miguel County also have the largest number of boarding homes of anywhere in New Mexico. These are private homes that have opened their doors to mental health consumers, providing them room and board. These are typically people who received inpatient care at the NMBHI or other psychiatric facility and have chosen to live in the Las Vegas area.
There is a “Drop In Center” in the Plaza-Bridge Street area where I invite Mr. Harapat to visit and have coffee and conversation with other visitors there and get to know who he is talking about and then maybe he’ll have a different view. I might add that when approached for money, a simple and respectful “no” has always worked for me without incident. I frequently shop the Plaza-Bridge Street area and I will continue to do so, although I will miss buying incense or the occasional massage at Mr. Harapat’s shop.