May 29, 2015
Director of Advocacy and Public Policy
National Alliance on Mental Illness
NAMI Lexington – firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Today’s Herald Leader/Ky Center for Investigative Reporting Front Page Story.
One Way Ticket Out of Town – Gives the term ‘Out of Sight…Out of Mind’ a whole new twist.
More like, “Out of Mind…Out of Sight”
It should come as no surprise, that among ‘banish-ees’, the severely mentally ill citizens of this country have long been targeted for ‘relocation’ by some dubious law enforcement agencies.
“It’s unclear whether police thought their maneuver would go undetected. Horine, after all, was a bit of a vagrant, bouncing among temporary homes, jail and jobs. Who would advocate for him?”(Herald Leader/KCIR 2015)
In this case, a compassionate District Court Judge, Elizabeth Chandler, could sense immediately upon interacting with the individual before her that Adam Horine was not a dangerous criminal but a very ill individual pleading to go to the hospital. According to the report by KCIR, Judge Chandler acted on her sensitivities by responding that Horine looked sick and she ordered an immediate mental health examination and transport to Eastern State Hospital. It is also noted in the article that a social worker’s preliminary evaluation confirmed the judge’s initial read and that, indeed, Mr. Horine was in urgent need of treatment. According to the report and accompanying video evidence, these prudent and justified acts of advocacy were soon overridden by irresponsible, illegal, rogue law enforcement agents, one of them a local Chief of Police, Michael Willhoite and a local officer, Ron Dickow.
In a country where the mentally ill are often incarcerated instead of treated, patient abuses and these kinds of incidents are far too common. According to a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center, American prisons and jails housed an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in 2013. That figure is more than 10 times the number of mentally ill patients in state psychiatric hospitals in the same year—about 35,000 people. A heart-breaking truth is that part of this increase is due to a widespread failure to treat mental illness. After public psychiatric hospitals in the early 20th century came to be criticized for inhumane and disturbing treatments, beginning in the 1950s there was a movement to deinstitutionalize mental health and treat patients in more community-based treatment centers. At their highest peak in 1955, state psychiatric hospitals held 558,922 patients. Today, they hold about 35,000 patients, and that number continues to fall. In a recent survey of individual states, the Treatment Advocacy Center found that in 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the largest prison or jail held more people with serious mental illness than the largest state psychiatric hospital.
The only exceptions were Kansas, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming. “Indeed, the Polk County Jail in Iowa, the Cook County Jail in Illinois, and the Shelby County Jail in Tennessee each have more seriously mentally ill inmates than all the remaining state psychiatric hospitals in that state combined,” the report says.
According to the Department of Justice, about 15 percent of state prisoners and 24 percent of jail inmates report symptoms meeting the criteria for a serious psychotic disorder. For a myriad of reasons, and for hideously outrageous reasons such as the case of Adam Horine, as cited in the report by the Herald Leader and KRIC, without appropriate, therapeutic jurisprudence, too many of our most severely mentally ill citizens are left vulnerably homeless, languishing in jail or as in the Carrollton County case, worse.
Speaking from personal experience, what happened to Adam Horine is not uncommon. My son has been victim to this style of vigilante ‘justice’ on a few occasions. He met the ‘criteria’ for some of these complimentary vacations by being, “a bit of a vagrant”, homeless and most of all floridly psychotic. In other words, this young man needed to be somebody else’s potential liability. What happens when you put a person in the throes of a major psychotic episode on an airplane with a one way ticket? The Federal Marshall aboard said plane has to take custody and the plane has to land in Chicago where said individual is taken to Cook County Jail, one of the country’s largest mental institutions. Another time, the same individual is placed on a bus in Texas and disembarks at the first available stop and almost dies of heat exhaustion and dehydration, walking in 115 degree heat; where, you guessed it, he is picked up for ‘vagrancy’ and given yet another bus trip ‘home’. Luckily for our family, my son did not die at the hands of officials who just wanted to rid themselves of his kind. I can tell you that you are not left unscathed by these irresponsible, uninformed decisions and we are always fearful that such fates will strike again someday. This latest example raises my already-too-high-fear-threshold and reminds me that the threats of ignorance and prejudicial acts abound.
Locally, we have worked hard to collaborate with local law enforcement. We have many well trained, (many Crisis Intervention Trained) law enforcement officers and jail personnel. We have worked to create good relationships with our Sheriff and our Police Chief. We have been fortunate to recently start a mental health court, and strengthen bonds with local judiciary, and we have the support of our local officials. We are consistently working with providers, family members and other local agencies and stakeholders to ensure that we don’t create the kind of jeopardy described in the aforementioned story. Is it perfect? No, but with a valiant Community effort it is evolving.
Unlike in my son’s case, in the case of Adam Horine there was attempted advocacy on the part of the judge and the social worker. Right action was attempted. The despicable and irrefutable evidence points to that action being hijacked and perverted by some rogue law enforcement agents who were high on entitlement, and thought they were flying above the law and under the radar.