Friday, October 06, 2006

Suing for justice

When factoring in the costs to society of not treating people, don’t forget to include that of lawsuits.

Grieving families whose loved ones were abandoned by the mental health system are too often left with no choice but to call law enforcement when the person they love stops medication and deteriorates. Many of those encounters – again, sometimes in spite of rigorous police training – end up in tragedy. Some family members turn to lawsuits.

In California, police had responded twice before to take Jesse Hernandez into custody for mental health reasons – he had schizophrenia and was off his medication. The first two times they took him in without incident. The third time, after a 2-hour standoff with the SWAT team, he was killed.

In Ohio, the sheriff is facing a $250,000 lawsuit from the grieving family of Nasir Abdi. Abdi was killed “when four deputies came to take him to a treatment center for his paranoid schizophrenia after his family called for help because he refused to take his medication and was hearing voices. The deputies said that Abdi lunged at them with a kitchen knife before he was shot.”

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