Community Mental Health Service Meltdown: 85 Possibly Missing
This week a Fayette County judge ordered, for the second time in three years, that a prisoner with severe mental health
problems, deemed unable to stand trial for a 2006 murder, have an inpatient psychiatric evaluation at Torrance State
Just like in Nazareth 2011 years ago, however, there's no room at the inn, the judge was told. A few years ago, another
county courthouse judge was led to believe that the inpatient psychiatric evaluation was being scheduled and the man
would be transferred pronto, from jail to a locked inpatient state hospital psychiatric unit for evaluation. Never happened.
So much time with no action prompted a public defender this week to ask for the unstable man's release from jail.
While the motion to spring the accused man from his cell wisely was objected to by the assistant district attorney and
judge, the case could attract the attention of some civil liberties or state protection and advocacy lawyer and come back
some day to bite the county in the butt. Three years is a long time to wait for a bed at a state hospital for a psychiatric
evaluation for someone charged with taking a life. Too long.
At one time, Fayette County had patients in about 120 beds in the state hospital system. With the closure of Somerset
State Hospital, most patients were discharged to nursing or personal care homes or discharged to live again with their
families. A small percentage who needed continued inpatient care was transferred to Torrance State Hospital.
Currently, there are about 20 or so beds for county residents in Torrance. In exchange for managing the ones, who
otherwise would have been in a state hospital, the community mental health services, since Somerset's closure, were
enhanced, upgraded, and increased to maintain those in the community at a cheaper rate and divert hospitalizations to the
state psychiatric hospital system. Scores of new staff and new programs sprung up to keep the numbers of inpatient
admissions low with the money that previously paid to maintain those 120 or so beds on a state level.
Like everywhere, funding has been cut back for some services. But the county still continues to receive base funding to
maintain services and continues to be allowed, under non-profit status rules, to keep three percent of the huge multi-
million dollar profits from behavioral health services.
Is it fair to keep courts, possible court witnesses, defendants and families of those murdered hanging in sheer limbo for
three or four years or longer for a killer to receive a simple inpatient psych evaluation? No.
County commissioners were contacted today to ask what, just what, is going on here.
Is Torrance State Hospital really full? Or it is that the County of Fayette chooses not to pay for one additional bed
beyond the low maximum number maintained for the past three or four years? In other words, does the county opt not to
use some of it's funding -- or part of its three-percent profits from a few million dollars raked in from behavioral mental
health services -- to pay for one accused killer's inpatient psychiatric evaluation at Torrance?
Commissioners today were contacted because mental health staff were unavailable. No kidding! Just one employee-owned
vehicle seemed to be at work today at the county mental health building. Where there is usually a sea of 80 or so vehicles
parked, it seemed only one worker's car was parked outside for most of the afternoon, possibly longer.
County commissioners were asked why. Since the relatively new, multi-million dollar mental health facility has a huge
conference room with a state of the arts public address system, it would seem that home base is the most appropriate
meeting place if all 80 or so staff were in attendance in a state mandated training. And since what appeared to be the
entire fleet of county-owned vehicles was parked there, it seemed so unlikely that employees were out traveling anywhere
on official work business... and more likely that county workers were at a picnic, where alcohol was flowing on paid work
time. Unsolicited photographs and video received here by evening clearly confirm the fact that for some, today was
definitely Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Commissioners were asked today whether a county that disregarded earlier court orders to schedule this accused
killer's inpatient stay at Torrance truly couldn't afford to pay for the evaluation. If that's truly the case and there is an
empty bed the county can buy for a two-week evaluation, lets pass the hat quickly and make it happen. After all, the man's
own family has obtained a protection from abuse order in the event that the courts let the unstable man go free from jail
simply because his evaluation has not been scheduled.
If the county of Fayette allowed a mental health consumer-turned-killer to sit in jail and further regress for over three
years, waiting for a psychiatric evaluation -- and put us all at risk if the unstable man were freed during the long wait --
because the county truly could not afford the customary two-week inpatient stay at Torrance, it would be unimaginable
that the same poor county would allow taxpayers' money to be blown on an employee picnic on paid work time today.
Eighty-five times hourly salary rates of $16-47, times six hours (possibly more hours for some who left ahead of the
crowd to set up) wasted of taxpayers money... gee, the loud ca-ching of the cash register could have paid for many
inpatient psychiatric evaluations.
Note: County commissioners' response/answers and input about the delay in getting the psychiatric evaluation scheduled,
their employees partying on paid work time and input on whether employees will be reprimanded, docked or made to use
vacation time are added below.
19 Aug 11
22 Aug 11: Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink replies, "Obviously, I do not approve. Also, alcohol is not permitted during
21Sept11 Update on the mental health prisoner: He was released from jail, ordered to stay at the county's hideaway
LTSR on Tippiecanoe Road in Grindstone. Please make sure the locks work well there, since it's his hometown area and a
mere 20-30 minute hike to the relatives who placed the Protection From Abuse Order against him, when the Public
Defender petitioned for his release from jail two months ago. Click on this link for the article in today's paper.