02/06/2013 04:46 pm ET Updated Apr 08, 2013

Bus Stop to Nowhere

In Florida we spend a considerable amount of time discussing transportation, or better
yet the lack of transportation. And as the legislative session draws near we hope to hear about
ways to promote infrastructure investment. At the county and municipal levels we hope to
hear about bridges, road resurfacing, bike paths, walkways, trollies, shade trees on pedestrian
paths and weather conscious bus stops. But while listening to our state leaders in several
subcommittees recently I couldn't help but think of a series bus stops in Germany.

The bus stops, which were memorialized in Timo Klos's series "To Mark Time," are
noteworthy because rather than transit points, they are the destination. An unconventional
way to deal with wandering residents the bus stops were built outside medical facilities that
house Alzheimer patients. Rather than locking the doors, the replicas of functioning bus
stops, tap into the patients' long term memory and lull then into thinking that they could
leave if they just waited for a bus. After a short time a staff member tells the patients the bus
will be there later and asks them to go inside. Time after time, the patients who were once
forcibly escorted back to the facility by the local police, walk willingly back inside.

Meanwhile in Tallahassee at a committee presentation on mental health it was
announced that "one in five children in Florida have mental health issues." The following day
the quote was a headline. Upon reading I considered the impact that the data, without context
could have on mental health programs and thought about our obligation as policy makers to
educate our community on mental health. I wished that rather than generalize statistics we
would speak in terms of temporary emotional mental health issues vs. severe persistent
mental illness. While mental health labels are necessary to determine diagnosis and
treatment, the very same labels can have an almost Pygmalion effect on children and their
families who believe their lives are forever defined by their condition, which in many cases
can, with intervention and assistance, be overcome or successfully managed.

In the following months we will discuss school security at the national, state and
school board levels and work to safeguard not just the physical safety but also the mental
health of our students. At Miami-Dade County Public Schools we have taken a first step by
partnering with the American Psychiatric Foundation but more is needed. Specifically, we
need to work with the state and establish a meaningful partnership with the Department of
Children and Families, their affiliates and the Juvenile Justice System, the ultimate providers
of mental health services and together create a system of coordinated care with an emphasis
on prevention and early intervention. On the legislative front we need to consider serious
changes, such as expanding the right to assessment and intervention, finding ways to curtail
the misuse of restraints and the Backer Act and insuring a continuum of service after

If, however, we opt to focus on socially acceptable band aides and photo opportunities,
it will be as if we built our very own version of a bus stop to nowhere; a bus stop where we can
sit, chat and wait until a staff member escorts use willingly back into the Capitol.