Letters

Week of October 29, 2003

Dead Again
Dead wronged:No one understands the importance of correctional healthcare better than the people who dedicate their professional lives to that cause. They choose to go into prisons and jails each day to serve the medical and mental-health needs of hundreds of thousands of inmates. In Missouri, that dedication has led to numerous improvements in inmate healthcare.

It is a fact that, on the average, the healthcare that patients receive in prison is better than what many Americans receive outside prison. For example: 1) A review of treatment provided to HIV patients in Missouri prisons demonstrates that the care they received compared favorably with care provided by the Johns Hopkins HIV clinic; 2) Three comprehensive studies performed in Missouri prisons by the University of Missouri document that inmate healthcare services are responsible and well executed; 3) In 2001, the Missouri Hospital Association recognized Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (CMS) for the professional and quality services it provides within the correctional system as well as in the community.

We hoped that the Riverfront Times would have included in Geri L. Dreiling's October 15 cover story "Dying to Get Out" some of the foregoing information, as well as other information on our beneficial services that was provided to the RFT. Even though CMS employees and contracted professionals have had millions of beneficial patient interactions, the story focused on unproven allegations about the care provided to a small number of inmate patients over the past five years.

We also want RFT readers to know that, while patients and their families are free to criticize the care and the providers, we as providers do not have that same liberty. We will not disclose patient medical records without the consent of patients or their representatives. For that reason, we were not able to discuss important facts that rebut or disprove the allegations. Neither the patients nor their relatives waived confidentiality, so we were not allowed to comment on the patients' conditions or medical treatment.

We provided detailed responses to issues raised about CMS's work in other states. But that information was not included in the story. The RFT quoted the negative comments and accusations made by harsh critics of CMS, yet did not include our responses to those issues. The RFT also failed to report that some time ago, CMS offered to meet with the ACLU to discuss inmate healthcare. To date, the ACLU has declined to discuss or meet with us regarding those issues.

Again, we understand the interest readers may have in this story. Correctional healthcare is a cause that means very much to all of us in this specialized field. We believe if the RFT story had included an equal amount of information about the many improvements and services CMS has contributed, it would have been more balanced factually and would have helped readers more fully understand the many complex and compelling aspects to this important issue.
Dr. Louis C. Tripoli, senior vice president of medical affairs
Correctional Medical Services, Inc.

Dead on:I read "Dying to Get Out" with disgust at our prison system. I am a nurse at a urology clinic that has the state contract to care for all Missouri inmates. Weekly, we see between two and ten inmates from combined facilities. I know that too often our physicians recommend treatment, tests or follow-up care for inmates that the inmates never receive. Our calls to facilities to check on inmate follow-up care meet with disorganization and lack of interest from medical corrections staff.

I find it appalling that inmates are falling through the cracks in our institutions. They deserve humane medical treatment and the opportunity to be healthy, even while incarcerated. My personal belief is that treatment is postponed because of cost.
Name withheld by request
Centertown

Balls Out
Fat, so?I was quite disappointed to begin reading Ben Westhoff's "Cut the Castration Scene" [October 15], only to be met with a myriad of misinterpretation of facts. Alas, they are too numerous to mention and I will not torture the good readers of this publication by rooting through them.

You may be think I am an advocate of sexual violence and the portrayal of debauchery. On the contrary -- I find such tomfoolery to be not only disturbing but also corruptive to budding minds. However, I also find grease-palmed journalism in the same category. If your writers are not going to check the facts then I'm afraid the RFT may end up being lumped into the tabloid category.

What, pray tell, does being overweight have to do with being distraught over the molestation of one's child, Ben Westhoff?
Mary Burns
Wright City

Back to McRee Town
Our own Hell's Kitchen:As a resident of the neighborhood surrounding the Botanical Garden, I read the "The Greening of McRee Town" [Shelley Smithson, October 8] with more than a bit of interest. This little corner of south St. Louis is a great place to live. Lots of character and great amenities nearby -- the Central West End at half the price. McRee Town, however, is a literal Hell's Kitchen right here in St. Louis that threatens to pollute all of the areas that share its border.

Don't get me wrong: While I feel for those who will be displaced, it would be much better for all of them if they were allowed to disperse in other neighborhoods. True, their rent will eventually be higher, but no matter where they move they will be paying the same amount they pay now for the next three years! I'd love to move to a penthouse at the Chase Park Plaza and still pay the reasonable amount of rent I pay. Maybe three years from now these families will realize that it is worth it to work a little harder to be able to live in a neighborhood that's less of a war zone, even if they have to pay an extra $100 a month.

It seems to me that folks like Jim Roos are part of St. Louis' problem, not its solution. The preservation of the status quo at all costs to the prosperity of the city and the safety of its residents. Hopefully the law-abiding and hard-working residents of McRee Town will find out the grass is truly greener outside their neighborhood.
Scott Plackemeier
St. Louis

The Rest of the Best
Cheers to Dad!Thank you so much for recognizing my father's establishment in your "Best of St. Louis" issue. It was mere coincidence when I decided to head down to the local Cecil Whittaker's for my usual order of mostaccioli. I picked up the "Best of" edition, indulging myself in the reactions of the city and the RFT staff.

What took me back the most was when you awarded Thai Country Café "Best Thai Restaurant." I found it quite fitting to have my father -- a widowed single parent with two children, one of whom is on the verge of entering college, the other a teenaged girl -- finally honored in your paper. I read the RFT fairly often to find out about the local music scene, and I find the political cartoons mind-blowing. To a concerned and involved teenage St. Louisan (I'm seventeen, ladies), the RFT offers a lot.

Anyway, to wrap it up short: Thanks for recognizing the Thai Country Café, and thanks for recognizing my father. It has been long owed to the man who once got robbed selling ice cream in East St. Louis.
JoJo Prapaisilapa
Chesterfield

Stage Pages
The more the merrier:Thanks so much for what appears to be a more concerted effort to give the theater scene in town its due. The September 17 issue had two full pages and reviewed four shows, and this is indicative of the coverage in recent months. I first noticed the change a year ago when Dennis Brown (who, even though I don't always dance to his beat, God bless him, he'll see anything) reviewed Kirkwood Theatre Guild's production of Picnic, a (gasp!) community production. Since then it seems Mr. Brown and Deanna Jent -- whom I judge to be the finest critic of any ilk in town, fair, insightful and honest, yet tactful -- have endeavored to see any show at any company and are more and more often being given the space to alert readers to the wide array and generally improving state of St. Louis theater.

So thank you for that, although a clear-cut calendar of productions, akin to the movie schedule, would be most welcome. And a chance to vote for theater categories in the "Best of" -- I believe it was Kirsten Wylder [ Letters, August 20] who alerted you to the fact that we could vote for "Best Zoo Animal" but not "Best Theater Company." Strange, that. Anyhow, thank you, and please keep up the improved coverage. It's good to be seen.
Jason Cannon
St. Louis

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