Monday, February 12, 2007

Not guilty by reason of insanity

For years Bill and Tena Neely struggled to get appropriate and consistent treatment for their daughter Tracy, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Even after Tracy shot her mother at the family’s home, the Neelys still had to fight to get treatment for Tracy. As one advocate noted, in South Carolina,

“… mentally ill people usually go to prison, where they may get little or no treatment.”

Tracy Neely’s family fought hard for her to get a rare “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict – one of only 7 such decisions statewide last year. Now she is receiving treatment in a mental health center instead of serving time in prison. Her dad offers advice to other family members in similar situations:

"There's no rulebook. You've just gotta hit it as hard as you can and as fast as you can to save your daughter."

Good advice for families. But what about all of those with severe mental illness who don’t have someone to fight the system to get them treatment?

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