I read with interest the May 21 article “Left in the Lurch,” by Betty Adams. As clinical director for Paramount Behavioral Services, I am distressed when I read about agencies in our area that no longer provide services for people who live with mental illness.

It is frightening to consider that 300 people were abruptly and unceremoniously cut off from the services that they had depended upon to get through each day. It is discouraging to note that 100 people suddenly lost their jobs. These losses appear to be the result of mismanagement (at best) and/or fraud (at worst) by an agency that may have lost sight of the needs of its clients and staff — that didn’t need to happen.

I work for an agency that ethically, carefully, empathetically, and thoughtfully provides services to people in central Maine who live with mental illness. I have colleagues at other agencies with similar missions and goals who work hard every day to deliver quality care and support to people who need it. As a group, we agencies need to do a better job of educating the general public about the important and necessary work that we do — and that the majority of us do every day in a morally and fiscally responsible way.

First and foremost, people who are diagnosed with mental illnesses are, well, people. I am sure that you know someone with a mental illness. That person could be your relative. Certainly, that person is someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, aunt, uncle, son, daughter, neighbor, or friend. And that person did not choose to have a mental illness.

Think about that. For the most part, people do not choose to be ill. We don’t choose to have cancer. We don’t hope to have dementia. We don’t plan to develop high blood pressure. We don’t choose — nor do we like — to feel out of control when our bodies betray us. Just as with any physical illness, people living with mental illness do not choose to be ill.

People do not choose to be so overwhelmed by anxiety that they cannot leave their homes. People do not choose to be inundated by voices that others cannot hear but that cause these people to become incapacitated by conflicting messages. People do not choose to be so bogged down by sadness and worry that they can barely get out of bed every day — if at all. People do not choose to have thoughts that race so fast that they cannot make themselves understood by others who care about and want to help them. People do not choose to have past traumas revisited upon them as a result of unwanted flashbacks and night terrors.

Living with mental illness can be a challenge. It can be problematic. It is often coupled with loneliness. Living with mental illness can be all-consuming, frustrating, and scary.

And, just as with any physical illness, people who live with mental illness need support, care, and assistance in order to live the best life that they can live. Often, they need support just to live.

Some of that support includes providing assistance to clients who need to locate safe and affordable housing and who are homeless. Other supports include helping clients budget for financial needs and receive vocational support in order to become self-supporting individuals who can then give back to their communities. Support always includes providing emotional and psychological care to people whose symptoms interfere with their ability to function well in their communities. These (and many other supports) are provided through community integration services.

Other types of care include helping clients learn how to address needs such as appointment planning, food shopping and meal preparation, and accessing transportation services for dental and medical needs. These are but a few examples of daily living support services that clients benefit from receiving.

Paramount Behavioral Services provides these services. Break of Day and TriCounty Mental Health provide similar services. So do Motivational Services, Catholic Charities, Kennebec Behavioral Health, and scores of other agencies in central Maine.

Sadly, I suspect that you don’t know about these agencies or the good work that they are doing. Rather, we hear about the agencies that betray the public trust and fill columns of news space because of short-sighted and self-involved decisions made by people who don’t appear to have the needs of clients as their priorities.

Thank goodness the Maine Department of Health and Human Services is working to get the clients described in the May 21 article into services at other agencies as quickly as possible. Thank goodness the Maine Department of Labor is working diligently to try to relocate displaced workers. And thank goodness for agencies such as Paramount Behavioral Services.

There are agencies in central Maine that are staffed by caring, concerned and committed individuals who want to help people who have mental illness diagnoses to become as self-sufficient and independent as they can be. I am proud to be employed by such an agency. I am honored to be part of a team that does its best to provide quality care to people who bravely live every day with mental illness.

Cathleen E. Dunlap, LCSW, is clinical director of Paramount Behavioral Services in Waterville.