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Lock up the Mentally Ill to Prevent Mass Murders September 19, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Delusions.
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A young woman on Anderson Cooper 360 last night called Aaron Alexis “a crazy schizophrenic” and stopped just short of saying he should have been locked up.  Let’s take a close look at this idea, because it’s going to rear its ugly head.

First of all, Alexis was never diagnosed with a mental illness. So how do we find people like him and lock them up so they don’t kill people?  Let’s lock up anyone we suspect of having a mental illness. That would do the trick.

How do we find those people?

Let’s make the police find them for us.  Any time someone calls the police about someone acting bizarrely, let’s have the police assess that bizarrely acting person.  After all, the police interviewed Alexis when he called them to report someone was “sending microwaves through the wall”.  Anyone who makes bizarre statements like that should be locked up.

What about people who are acting bizarrely because they’re drunk?  Let’s not count those people.

Where should they go to be locked up?  Let’s build more mental hospital beds to house them all. How many beds will they need?  Well, if you count the number of people who want to commit suicide, there probably needs to be four times as many hospital beds as there are now.  Or don’t we want to count those people?  After all, they just want to take their own life- not anyone else’s.   Except for those people who do things like get in bad car accidents, managing to accidentally take the life of others with them.  So we should definitely count the suicidal in our sweeping net.

Should we let the police be the ones to make the official determination, or should we bring in someone trained to handle such a task, like the Designated Mental Health Professional?  That clinician determines whether someone is a danger to themselves or others, the current standard for involuntary commitment.  And that’s what we’re talking about: involuntarily committing anyone who exhibits bizarre behavior. We don’t really need a DHMP because the police already performed that function when they took the police report.

Violating people’s civil rights (which is, when you get down to it, what involuntary commitment is) will become commonplace. I don’t want to live in such a world.

Mental Health Courts January 17, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Uncategorized.
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Mental health courts link offenders who would ordinarily be prison-bound to long-term community-based treatment. They rely on mental health assessments, individualized treatment plans, and ongoing judicial monitoring to address both the mental health needs of offenders and public safety concerns of communities. 

Mental health courts share characteristics with Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), jail diversion programs, specialized probation and parole caseloads, and a host of other collaborative initiatives intended to address the significant over-representation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

In the early 1980s, Judge Evan Dee Goodman helped establish a court exclusively to deal with mental health matters at Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis. This court was a dual purpose court. It to handled the probate court needs of people needing to be on a civil commitment for psychiatric treatment and it established a docket to deal with cases of the mentally ill offender who had been arrested on minor charges. This was necessary as the mentally ill were frequently arrested and had charges pending when the treatment providers sought a civil commitment to send their patient for long term psychiatric treatment. Judge Goodman’s court at Wishard Hospital could serve both purposes. The probate part of the mental health court would handle the civil commitment. The criminal docket of the mental health court could handle the arrest charges. The criminal charges could be put on diversion, or hold, allowing the patient’s release from jail custody. The civil commitment would then become effective and the patient could be sent to a state hospital for treatment. Judge Goodman would schedule periodic hearings to learn of the patient’s progress. If warranted, the criminal charges were dismissed, but the patient still had obligations to the civil commitment.

In addition to arranging inpatient treatment, Judge Goodman often put defendants on diversion, or on an outpatient commitment, and ordered them into outpatient treatment. Judge Goodman would have periodic hearings to determine the patient’s compliance with the treatment plan. Patients who did not follow the treatment plan faced sanctions, a modification of the plan, or if they were on diversion their original charge could be set for trial.

Judge Goodman’s concept and the original mental health court were dissolved in the early 1990s.

In the mid-1990s, many of the professional mental health workers who had worked with Judge Goodman sought to re-establish a mental health court in Indianapolis. Representatives of the county’s mental health service providers and other stake holders began meeting weekly. After a couple years of lobbying local authorities the in Marion County, Indiana, the mental health court began as a formal program in 1996. Many consider this to be the nation’s first mental-health court in this second wave of mental health court initiatives. Since the PAIR Program did not operate with any new funds, there was not much scholarly research and therefore the accomplishments of Judge Goodman and the PAIR Program are frequently overlooked. The current PAIR Program is a comprehensive pretrial, post-booking diversion system for mentally ill offenders. A program launched in Broward County, Florida was the first court, to be recognized and published as a specialized mental-health court. Overseen by Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, the Broward County Mental Health Court was launched in 1997, partially in response to a series of suicides of people with mental illness in the county jail.

Shortly after the establishment of the Broward County Mental Health Court, other mental health courts began to open in jurisdictions around the U.S., launched by practitioners who believed that standard punishments were ineffective when applied to the mentally ill.  In Alaska, for example, the state’s first mental health court (established in Anchorage in 1998) was spearheaded by Judge Stephanie Rhoades, who felt probation alone was inadequate. “I started seeing a lot of people in criminal misdemeanors who were cycling through the system and who simply did not understand their probation conditions or what they were doing in jail. I saw police arresting people in order to get them help. I felt there had to be a better solution,” she explained in an interview. Mental health courts were also inspired by the movement to develop other problem-solving courts, such as drug courts, domestic violence courts, community courts and parole reentry courts. The overarching motivation behind the development of these courts was rising caseloads and increasing frustration — both among the public and among system players — with the standard approach to case processing and case outcomes in state courts. In February 2001, the first juvenile mental-health court opened in Santa Clara, California.

Since 2000, the number of mental health courts has expanded rapidly. There are an estimated 150 courts in the U.S. I was “processed” through my involuntary commitment through King County’s (Washington State) court, one of the first in the nation. Snohomish County (my county in Washington State) just opened theirs in October 2012.

(From Wikipedia)

Murder, Ian Stawicki, and House Bill 3076 June 21, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Involuntary Committment.
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June 21, 2012

Editor, The Seattle Times

Some people blame the City of Seattle for the recent murder of five unsuspecting people by Ian Stawicki.  I blame the taxpayers of Washington and the government.

The problem, in a nutshell, is with the mental health system, which was brought on by the State’s refusal to fund a bill that would have had Stawicki involuntarily committed.  At the point he was diagnosed as mentally ill (because of the involuntary commitment), he would have been denied the ability to purchase guns as well as been started on a medical treatment for his disorder.  Since he was never diagnosed as mentally ill (because House Bill 3076 was never funded), he was not prohibited from possessing a firearm.  But because of a lack of funding (and a lack of mental hospital beds), Ian was allowed to roam free, wreaking his havoc among the people in Seattle.

Currently, as the law reads, a person can be involuntarily committed only when a third party, the Designated Mental Health Professional, does an independent assessment of a person who is thought to be an imminent danger to himself or others.  This changed with House Bill 3076.  In that bill, the DMHP could rely on testimony from friends or family members of those who clearly have a mental illness.  As it stands now, input cannot be given by family members or friends of a suspected mentally ill person.  But House Bill 3076 changes all of that.  With the new bill, however, come costs.  The big problem with passing and funding House Bill 3076 is that there aren’t enough hospital beds to take those people who would have been involuntarily committed because of testimony of friends and/or loved ones.  So the State acknowledges the need for such a place, but declines to do anything about it.

So when there is a lot of handwringing and rhetoric about the state of the mental health laws, I have little or no sympathy for those doing their handwringing.  NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots organization for those suffering from mental illness and their friends and loved ones) has testified before Congress at the need for such facilities.  But we are always told it is too expensive to fund.  This is what happens when needs are ignored.  There will be more Ians because of this situation.

Until Congress and the State of Washington take steps to build hospital beds for those people like Ian to go get help, there will be more cases of mental illness-sparked murders.  So if we are truly concerned about people like Ian, who clearly have an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, and his victims, nothing will change.

People on the radio and tv have wrung their hands about people like Ian getting access to firearms.  But until House Bill 3076 is funded, there will be no diagnosis of mental illness, and there will be continued access to guns by those with no business owning one.

Involuntary Commitment Hearing June 22, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing.
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Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington has a court of law attached to it to handle involuntary commitment (IC) cases.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, Fairfax Hospital cases, including my involuntary commitment case, were processed through the Harborview court. Under State law, a mental hospital must go before a judge  to obtain a court order to hold an involuntarily committed (IC) person in their charge. The hospital has 72 hours after the IC person is admitted in which to go before a judge for that court order before they must release the IC person.   I was admitted to Fairfax late on the evening of May 28, 2008. Weekend are excluded from that formula, so what should have been a 72 hour hold was actually a 120 hour hold.

About two hours before my involuntary commitment hearing, my husband got a call from Fairfax telling him about the hearing and that he could attend if he wanted.  That call was the first he knew of the hearing, since nobody at Fairfax had bothered to tell him about it. Having no idea what to expect, he quickly rearranged his schedule and arranged for my sister, a licensed mental health counselor, to go with him.  Like most counselors, my sister had never had any reason to deal with involuntary commitments, so they drove  to the courtroom together, neither of them having any idea about what to expect.

Monday morning, 120 hours after my commitment, found the five of us (four others plus me) plus two guards bound for the courtroom.  We walked through a  gate and were loaded into a waiting van parked so close to the gate that there were only 2 steps from the ground to the van.The day was warm and full of sunshine, but the gray, dreary van interior was dark and cold, the dark tinted windows impossible to see out of.  A metal mesh screen ran around the inside of the van, and a darkj plexiglass panel separated our bench seats from the two bucket seats in front.  Treated like prisoners and unable to see out the windows,  I had no idea that the hospital was only a few minutes from my home. I had no idea where we were headed except I knew that we were headed to court.

Filing out of the van, we walked into a large foyer past my husband and sister.  I wasn’t told that they might be there, so I was shocked to see them.  Still angry at my husband for my delusion that he had me committed, I was cold and unresponsive when he tried to hug me.

The guards escorted us down a drab hallway where we passed men strapped to red four-point restraint boards screaming at the top of their lungs as well as a teenage girl kneeling on the ground, her arms wrapped around her mom’s legs as she begged her mom not to commit her.  Once we arrived at the dingy, dark little waiting room, we were told to get ready for a long wait and that a psychiatrist would see us before our hearing.  I wasn’t told at that point but learned much later that a court-appointed psychiatrist had to evaluate us and provide their recommendation to the judge before the hearing.

Calling my name, an aide brought me to a little room. I sat down across from a man in a rumpled suit who told me that Devin, my attorney I had talked with at the hospital and who was supposed to represent me in court, was ill and that he was my new attorney.  He apologized that he was unfamiliar with my case, having just been given my case that morning.  Great.  I was about to battle for my sanity in front of a judge, and my lawyer knew nothing about the case.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.

The law requires that a court-appointed attorney represent me in a hearing before a judge who would determine whether to involuntarily commit me to a mental hospital. Apparently, the law doesn’t require that the attorney who represented herself as mine on Friday be the same attorney who represented me the following Monday in court before the judge.

My new attorney left me in that little room, and, in time, in accordance with the State’s laws, a court-appointed psychiatrist arrived to interview me.  She asked me questions about my mental health and state of mind. Within 10 minutes of arriving, she left, and my attorney returned, apologizing again about not knowing anything about my case.

My new attorney led me down a shabby hallway into a wood-paneled court room where a woman judge sat at a bench.   I took a seat as my attorney rummaged around his stack of papers, producing a file that his clerk handed to the judge. She rifled through the file, then asked my attorney, “Involuntary Commitment?”.  He replied, “Yes”.  She signed the paperwork and a clerk handed it back to my attorney.  She slammed her gavel down.  Case Dismissed. Shocked, I got up and left the courtroom, never having had a chance to speak on my behalf.

 

Involuntary Committment Hearing September 11, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital.
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1 comment so far

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle has a court of law attached to it to handle involuntary commitment (IC) cases.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, Fairfax Hospital cases, including mine, were processed through the Harborview court. Under State law, a mental hospital must go before a judge  to obtain a court order to hold an involuntarily committed (IC) person in their charge. The hospital has 72 hours after the IC person is admitted in which to go before a judge for that court order before they must release the IC person.   I was admitted to Fairfax late on the evening of May 28, 2008. Weekend are excluded from that formula, so what should have been a 72 hour hold was actually a 120 hour hold.

About two hours before my involuntary commitment hearing, my husband got a call from Fairfax telling him about the hearing and that he could attend if he wanted.  That call was the first he knew of the hearing, since nobody at Fairfax had bothered to tell him about it. Having no idea what to expect, he quickly rearranged his schedule and arranged for my sister, a licensed mental health counselor, to go with him.  Like most counselors, my sister had never had any reason to deal with involuntary commitments, so they drove  to the courtroom together, neither of them having any idea about what to expect.

Monday morning, 120 hours after my commitment, found the five of us (four others plus me) plus two guards bound for the courtroom.  We walked through a  gate and were loaded into a waiting van parked so close to the gate that there were only 2 steps from the ground to the van.The day was warm and full of sunshine, but the gray, dreary van interior was dark and cold, the dark tinted windows impossible to see out. A metal screen ran around the inside of the van, and a plexiglass panel separated our bench seats from the bucket seats in front.  Treated like prisoners and unable to see out the windows,  I had no idea that the hospital was only a few minutes from my home. I had no idea where we were headed except I knew that we were headed to court.

Filing out of the van, we walked into a large foyer past my husband and sister.  I wasn’t told that they might be there, so I was shocked to see them.  Still angry at my husband for my delusion that he had me committed, I was cold and unresponsive when he tried to hug me.

The guards escorted us down a drab hallway where we passed men strapped to red four-point restraint boards screaming at the top of their lungs as well as a teenage girl kneeling on the ground, her arms wrapped around her mom’s legs as she begged her mom not to commit her.  Once we arrived at the dingy, dark little waiting room, we were told to get ready for a long wait and that a psychiatrist would see us before our hearing.  I wasn’t told at that point but learned much later that a court-appointed psychiatrist had to evaluate us and provide their recommendation to the judge before the hearing.

Calling my name, an aide brought me to a little room. I sat down across from a man who told me that Devon (my attorney from Friday- See yesterday’s blog entry “Prep for Involuntary Commitment Hearing”) was ill and that he was my new attorney.  He apologized that he was unfamiliar with my case, having just been given my case that morning.  Great.  I was about to battle for my sanity in front of a judge, and my lawyer knew nothing about the case.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.

The law requires that a court-appointed attorney represent me in a hearing before a judge who would determine whether to involuntarily commit me to a mental hospital. Apparently, the law doesn’t require that the attorney who represented herself as mine on Friday be the same attorney who represented me the following Monday in court before the judge.

My new attorney left me in that little room, and, in time, in accordance with the State’s laws, a court-appointed psychiatrist arrived to interview me.  She asked me questions about my mental health and state of mind. Within 10 minutes of arriving, she left, and my attorney returned, apologizing again about not knowing anything about my case.

My new attorney led me down a shabby hallway into a wood-paneled court room where a woman judge sat at a bench.   I took a seat as my attorney rummaged around his stack of papers, producing a file that his clerk handed to the judge. She rifled through the file, then asked my attorney, “Involuntary Commitment?”.  He replied, “Yes”.  She signed the paperwork and a clerk handed it back to my attorney.  She slammed her gavel down.  Case Dismissed. Shocked, I got up and left the courtroom, never having had a chance to speak on my behalf.

Prep for Involuntary Committment Hearing September 10, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, Psych Ward.
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Setting the Scene:  In the State of Washington, before committing a person to a psychiatric hospital involuntarily, the hospital has to go to court to establish that the person they want to commit actually belongs there. The hospital has 72 hours to go before a judge to prove that person needs to be committed before they have to release that person. I was committed on a Wednesday.

Devon, my court appointed attorney, met with me in my room. She explained she was appointed by the court as my legal counsel, but that I could get other legal counsel if I wanted to.  John, my personal attorney, was in Turkey so I was stuck until he returned.  I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of this unknown woman representing me at such an important event, but I had no option. I told her that I was OK with her representing me.

She explained that I could either be involuntarily committed or voluntarily committed. The difference between the two was that with voluntary commitment, I could leave the mental hospital whenever I wanted to.  With involuntary commitment, I couldn’t leave until the hospital personnel said that I was ready to leave. The choice was a no-brainer.  Of course I wanted to be voluntarily committed because I would have packed up and left that very day if I could.  So I tried to convince my attorney that I wanted to be voluntarily committed, that I really did want to be there, and that I really did want to stay as long as I needed to in order to get “cured”.  Devon said  she would see what she could do, leaving me with the impression that this would be a real hearing, which meant that I would  talk to the judge directly and plead my case that my commitment was a terrible mistake.

Devon explained that I could discontinue my medication until I was formally committed, noting that some patients thought it made their thinking fuzzy. As a testament to the effect the medication was already having on my judgment,  I elected to continue it, despite the fact that the nursing staff gave me pills which I took without asking what I was taking or why.

Devon said that I had the option of not attending the hearing at all and just allowing her to represent me.  I declined her strange offer.  In retrospect, that should have been my first clue that the hearing was simply a formality,  nothing more than a  “Kangaroo Court”.  Its purpose was to fulfill the letter of the law but not the intent. My fate was already sealed.

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