Letters to the Editor for the week of Feb. 2

Youth mental health

should be a priority
To the editor:
I write to thank you for your article last week, "State law will require districts to address suicide more directly." Coverage on this important topic helps to shed light on the critical issue of youth suicide, a very real and prevalent problem that is too often overlooked.
   In the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 17 percent of high school students think seriously about suicide and 9 percent have made a suicide attempt. Research tells us that 90 percent of youths who died by suicide suffered from a diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of their death, but the vast majority of these teens were not known to their parents, teachers or other adults as suffering from a mental disorder.
   In response to this public health crisis, Columbia University has spent more than a decade developing, implementing and evaluating its TeenScreen Program. TeenScreen is a voluntary mental health screening program that provides communities throughout the nation with free tools and training to identify youths who are at risk for suicide and those suffering from unidentified mental illness.
   Screening is always voluntary and no child is screened without a parent’s permission. Screening can help find those youths who are suffering from undiagnosed mental illness or are at risk for suicide, can make parents aware of their children’s difficulties and help connect them with the mental health services that can save their lives.
   Youth mental illness and suicide are public health issues that should be a public concern. I applaud The Messenger Press for your responsible coverage and strongly encourage parents, health professionals, educators and others in your community to prioritize youth mental health and support prevention and early intervention programs, including mental health screening, to help prevent the terrible tragedy of teen suicide.
Leslie McGuire
Columbia University TeenScreen Program
Some daycares

could be unsafe
To the editor:
Parents regularly drop their children off for home-based daycare and probably feel assured that the children will get quality care during the time they spend there. After all, the parents have investigated, researched and, in some cases, personally know the daycare provider. They believe their children will be safe.
   Citing the need for quality child care, in 1991 the New Jersey State Legislature enacted the "Family Day Care Zoning Law," which prohibits municipalities from enacting zoning barriers that would prevent the establishment, or continuation of, home-based daycare for children. Depending on the number of children cared for, varied criteria have been established for the operation of, and the codes associated with, the facility. These items range from compliance with the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code, sanitary inspections and certificates of Life/Safety Approval.
   The fact is, for home-based daycare, where five or less children are cared for, there are no requirements that present day building codes apply to these facilities. This, in my opinion, is a grave oversight on the part of the Legislature.
   Imagine that your infant, unable to speak, is silently suffering the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. You and other older persons might not be affected, but due to your child’s lower body weight, the deadly gas has potentially harmed your child forever. I would apply this same scenario to the effects of lead-based paint chips and dust. Do you know if there are smoke alarms and is a fire extinguisher readily available and functional?
   In order to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, any home sold within the state must have working smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector and a fire extinguisher within a specified distance of the kitchen. It is ludicrous that children are not viewed as important as a CO.
   Give thought to this as you drop off your children tomorrow or pick them up today
   I urge the state Legislature to revisit this legislation, modifying it so that municipalities are allowed to require these items for all home-based day care facilities, and that municipalities work to implement these changes. In part, the legislation states, "Any need restriction that would prohibit the use of a single family dwelling as a family daycare home shall not be enforceable unless that restriction is necessary for the preservation of the health, safety and welfare of the other residents in the neighborhood." Thus, the legislation prevents any municipal actions that should be allowed to ensure child safety in home daycare facilities.
Wayne R. Smith
Parks’ caretakers

are unsung heroes
To the editor:
If there was ever a perfect example of "Build it and they will come" it would have to be the Mark Harbourt Soccer Complex and Byron Johnson Recreation Area. If you happen to ride by on any nice weather day, you will find these fields full of area children and adults having fun playing different sports, usually until they have to leave because it gets too dark.
   But it’s not the sports or the players that we are writing this letter about. The unsung heroes of these two parks are the men that take care of the fields day in and day out. These township employees have dedicated their days to keeping our playing fields green, lush, neat, clean and safe for our children. If anyone has ever traveled to area towns to play sports, you would notice that our soccer, Pop Warner football and Little League fields would be considered some of the best around.
   So, on behalf of all the families and children we represent, we would like to thank the township workers. Thanks to Gary Fullaway, Paul Runge and Eugene Swearingen for their excellent work at the Mark Harbourt and Byron Johnson Recreation Area. We would also like to thank Upper Freehold Township for its continued dedication to youth sports.
David S. Reeder Jr.
Allentown/Upper Freehold Little League
Brian Reed
Upper Freehold Allentown Soccer Association
Dennis Todd
Central Redbirds Pop Warner Football