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Making limits to proposal clear

Talk about red flags: Reaction to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposal to reduce violence may be raising a gigantic one in the minds of Ohio residents concerned about personal liberties.

Among DeWine’s recommendations is that people with severe mental health problems, dependent on drugs or battling alcoholism could be hospitalized involuntarily for 72 hours if they are believed to be threats to themselves or others. By itself, that proposal is controversial.

But reaction among some mental health professionals has been that if the governor’s plan is written into law, more treatment facilities will be needed — and stays longer than 72 hours will be necessary.

“Capacity would certainly be an issue across the state,” Cheri Walter, executive director of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, told The Columbus Dispatch. “I’m not sure what three days does in the long run for somebody with drug or alcohol addiction,” she added.

Mental health treatment facilities in Ohio are near capacity. And drug or alcohol addiction cannot be cured in 72 hours.

But those worried about civil liberties may view such warnings as evidence of a plan for widespread, longterm involuntary commitments. That is not what DeWine has in mind. He wants only very limited, temporary measures to prevent violence by those who may turn to it.

That needs to be made crystal clear — and written into any legislation that is introduced on behalf of the governor.

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