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Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

Mother briefly contacts missing autistic son in Texas

May 21, 2017 1 comment

A man with autism and mental illness, who left a group home unsupervised in Massachusetts early Wednesday morning, was believed to be in Brownsville, Texas, as of Saturday, his mother said.

But Kris Myerson said she believes her 30-year-old son may be experiencing psychotic symptoms and may be with people who might do him harm.

Myerson said her son texted her from a cell phone on Saturday and asked her for money. The phone text was traced by police to Brownsville. But when Myerson tried to get her son to describe where he was, he disappeared again, she said.

[Update: On Sunday afternoon, Myerson’s son texted her that he was on a bus to Los Angeles. She said he asked her to find a place for him to live when he arrived there. Myerson lives in Vermont.]

Myerson believes officials with the Department of Mental Health and with ServiceNet, the provider of his Hadley, MA-based group home, allowed her son to leave Massachusetts and travel to Texas. She considers those officials responsible for any harm that might come to her son whom she believes does not have the functional capacity to travel by himself.

Myerson said ServiceNet staff told police that her son left the group home early Wednesday morning wearing only shorts and a T-shirt.

It is not clear how Myerson’s son got to Texas from his group home in Massachusetts. Myerson believes he removed Social Security funds from his bank account with help from ServiceNet staff. She believes the staff also helped him purchase a cell phone.

Myerson thinks her son may have taken a bus to Texas. She said that the ServiceNet staff reported that a cab had arrived at her son’s group home at noon on Wednesday to take her son to an airport, but that he had actually left the house, unseen, earlier that morning.

Myerson said her son texted her on Saturday from what she surmised was a bus station in Brownsville.  She said he texted that “he wanted to go to California right away and seemed desperate to get out of Brownsville and very scared.” However, Myerson added that, “he could not even go to the ticket counter to buy a ticket and wanted ME to do that somehow from Massachusetts!!!”

DMH and Department of Developmental Services officials have told Myerson that they cannot interfere with the man’s travel or travel plans because he is an adult and had been found competent to make his own decisions.  But Myerson doesn’t believe that either department has evaluated his functional capacity. She noted that he was considered disabled enough to require services in a group home with 24-hour care following a year-long hospitalization at the Worcester Recovery Center.

Myerson said her son was recently hospitalized for an eating disorder and emaciation. He has an extremely low body mass index, considered by eating disorder specialists to be serious enough to need hospital-level care. She said he is not able to count change, does not know the months of the year, and “is not able to safely navigate out in the community.”  He often rides his bike on the sidewalk and in front of cars, she said.

Last month, the State Department denied a passport to Myerson’s son, based on an incomplete application. He had sought the passport in order to travel to Cancun, Mexico, to visit unknown persons there whom he had met while playing an online video game.

Does the administration have a double standard in the care of the disabled?

June 26, 2014 1 comment

As The Boston Globe reported last week, Governor Patrick has “unveiled an ambitious and potentially costly plan” to reform the way the state’s criminal justice system handles mentally ill people.

The governor has proposed both a major increase in staff at Bridgewater State Hospital and a new facility there where potentially violent patients could receive care, according to the Globe.

We support the administration’s commitment to expanding care at Bridgewater State.  But we wonder whether this is yet more evidence of what appears to be a double standard on the part of the administration with regard to care of the mentally ill versus persons with developmental disabilities.

The administration appears to believe that congregate settings are necessary and appropriate for the mentally ill, but not appropriate for the developmentally disabled.  In fact, we think Governor Patrick will be known as a builder of major institutional facilities for the mentally ill, yet as a closer of facilities for the developmentally disabled.  This appears to us to reflect the absence of a comprehensive plan by this administration for care of all disabled people in the commonwealth.

Why are we building new state facilities and expanding state-run care for one group, yet tearing facilities down, eliminating an intensive care model, and privatizing most services for another group?

In addition to the plans for expansion of Bridgewater State for the mentally ill, the administration has taken major credit for the construction of the new Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital.  That facility, which opened in August 2012 at a cost of $302 million, has 320 beds for persons with mental illness.  The administration has billed it as “the largest non-transportation construction project (the state has) undertaken in more than 50 years.”

The administration has also apparently realized that intensive treatment models are necessary for the mentally ill.  According to the Globe, the administration has declared that mentally ill people “should receive the appropriate care in the appropriate setting.”   The Bridgewater proposal includes a plan for spending $10 million for an additional 130 full-time mental health clinicians at the complex. Patrick administration officials told the paper that if the Legislature approves this funding promptly, the additional staff could be working at Bridgewater by September.

The Bridgewater proposal further calls for $500,000 to study the possibility of retrofitting an existing state facility such as Taunton State Hospital or building yet another a new facility to treat and evaluate potentially violent people accused of committing crimes, according to the Globe.  The plan gives no cost estimate for the new facility.

At the same time, the administration is closing or has closed four of six developmental centers for people with profound levels of intellectual disability and severe medical conditions, contending these centers are too institutional.  Developmental centers provide an intensive level of care that must meet federal Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) standards.  ICF rules specify more staffing and monitoring than do federal and state requirements for privatized, community-based care in group homes.

Even sheltered workshops are considered by the administration to be too institutional for the intellectually disabled, and the administration has announced plans to shut those down by June of next year.  The administration is, at the same time, pouring additional funding into privatized group homes for the intellectually disabled, scattered in communities throughout the state.

The argument could be made that the administration views institutional care as appropriate for people with mental illness who are violent, and that’s why it is expanding facilities such as Bridgewater State.  But that doesn’t explain the construction of the Worcester hospital center; and it doesn’t explain why the administration is eliminating the ICF care model at facilities for the developmentally disabled such as the Templeton Developmental Center, where many people with behavioral problems live.

The alleged assault by a Templeton resident that caused the death last year of Dennis Perry shows that even that facility may not be fully equipped to meet the needs of all the people who live there, and keep them safe.  And yet, the administration is closing Templeton as an ICF and converting the facility to group homes, which will only reduce the level of staffing and supervision there.   Also, the attempted rape of a woman by a resident of a group home in Chelmsford in 2011 shows that there are intellectually disabled persons with potentially violent impulses who live in the DDS community system.

It has been argued that another difference between facilities for the mentally ill, such as the Worcester hospital center, and developmental centers for the developmentally disabled is that the Worcester facility is meant to help people make a transition to independent living in the community, whereas developmental centers are not intended to do so.  Therefore, according to this argument, the developmental centers should be closed, and the remaining system will be devoted either to serving all disabled people in the community or helping them get there.

Our response to that argument is that we have consistently stated that residents of developmental centers who want to benefit, or can benefit from community-based care should be encouraged to do so.  As far as we know, there has never been any rule or policy that prevented anyone who wanted to leave a developmental center from doing so and moving into the community system.

As we argued in connection with the Chelmsford group home incident, the real issue is the care model.  The administration wants to eliminate the intensive, ICF care model for people with developmental disabilities.  The administration does acknowledge that people with mental illness should receive the appropriate care in the appropriate setting.  And they appear to understand that the community system is not the appropriate setting for all mentally ill people.  But for some reason, the administration hasn’t yet figured out that the community system isn’t the appropriate setting for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities either.

We do believe that one day, the state will come to realize that institutional care for a certain segment of the developmentally disabled is needed, and there will be an effort to reconstruct our institutional facilities for them.  Unfortunately, we’re making that future job much more difficult and expensive by tearing down the system that we have had in place and which we spent so much money to upgrade from the 1970’s onward.