Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Boston Herald: Group Home Horror (H/T to Jules Crittenden):
Boston area group homes housing drug addicts and the mentally ill have been lightning rods for court actions involving residents accused of violent eruptions that have resulted in a broken jaw for one staffer, a slashing, a torched home and caretakers being terrorized, a Herald investigation found.

In the wake of the horrific January slaying of a young Revere social worker, the Herald reviewed dozens of lawsuits involving several state-contracted group home providers and found several involving violent Department of Mental Health clients. The findings raise safety concerns for staffers, residents and even neighbors of these homes, which are often tucked into residential neighborhoods.


The "system" often does not want to keep these violent types in jail, and often sends them out to facilities that do not keep good tabs on what the residents are doing. Some of the homes have people who run them who do not have experience with the mentally ill (or violent for that matter) and do not oversee meds very well, meaning that those who are psychotic can be left without much treatment. Another problem?:

Group home providers don’t run criminal background checks on prospective residents and the DMH also does not conduct Criminal Offender Records Information checks on clients.

A blue-ribbon panel convened by DMH Commissioner Barbara Leadholm after the Jan. 20 slaying of Revere group home worker Stephanie Moulton is mulling whether criminal screenings should be done. The panel is also probing staffing levels and training.


It is amazing to me how little attention is paid to the mentally ill or drug addicts who have past criminal records. It is outrageous to place them in group homes in residential neighborhoods--public safety should be the first concern, not the last.

19 Comments:

Blogger Adrian K said...

One thing to keep in mind is that those institutions probably do keep tabs on those things, but may not legally be able to force their clients to take their meds nor physically restrain them.

That requires an entirely different set of skills for which they are not being paid to provide.

9:27 AM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

The safety of the employees is also important to placement decisions. A bona fide mental health evaluation includes a self-harm assessment as well as a danger to others assessment.

Tennessee used to have regional psych hospital/jails for this type of violently ill person. Reagen closed those facilities with de-institutionalization and now we have this kind of assault and more homeless people as a result.

Some folks are too ill to make it in the outside world, and some ill people are too dangerous to be allowed amongst us. Sad, but sadly true.

Trey

9:27 AM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

During the 1970s I workeed a couple of years at one of those regional psych hospital/jails Trey mentions. In the 1980s, I worked 5 years at a mental health center.

Their was a lot of niavety at the mental health center in dealing with violent/criminal patients and issues at the mental health center. Several times stafff was attacked until finally a response team was set up.

We worked with group homes in the de-institutionalization process. At that time we were reaching the bottom of the barrel in patients, the most violent and most disturbed were being placed in the community. Group home owners were sometimes in it solely for the money and were woefully incompetent.

All the patients we worked with in group homes were considered legally competent adults and, as such, ultimately made their own decisions. One group home was so bad their license was yanked. But, the woman who ran it convinced the patients to stay and continue to pay her out of their disability checks. Within a year one of the patients stabbed his roommate to death using a pencil in a fight over a cigarette.

After a traffic accident the woman was eventually forced to have the patients move out.

As an example of the lack of legal understanding of the staff at the mental health center, I remember a meeting where we began discussing whether or not a patient was abusing her children. There seemed to be strong suspician she was. I brought up that Tennessee state law required that a person report "suspected" child abuse. Some of the others said we didn't "know" she was abusing her children. i reiterated the law said "suspect" not "know." As I was a lower level employee, the law was not followed and the suspected abuse never reported.

A large part of the problem of keeping these people off the streets is the definition requiring someone to be a danger to others or themselves. Psychiatrists and judges seem to error on the side of letting violent people out on the streets.

10:07 AM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

That reminds me. I need to get back out to the range to practice my quick aim with the ol' castle-keeper.

10:53 AM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

A few years ago a man in my city forced his way into a small group home for drug addicts that was located in a lower middle-class community, shot and killed 3 people. When this happened initially there was community outrage. But then the dust settled and we all were able to actually look at the statistics when it came to group homes for those with drug dependency issues and their effect on the greater community.

This turned out to be an eye-opening experience. Once the media started studying the data, it was discovered that group homes for those with substance abuse issues have almost no impact on the community. Those that live in these places are often expected to attend daily programs and also drug testing, as well as maintain gainful employment. If the residents don't meet those requirements they are asked to leave.

My attitude certainly changed about this once I learned the facts. If you do have a group home in your residential community that houses people with drug dependency issues, chances are you will never know it is there.

11:07 AM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Cham, the outrage was over what, the killing or the presence of the home?

11:32 AM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

We're used to killings. The outrage was over the presence of the home in the neighborhood. It turns out the killer was some sort of nut who had a grudge against someone in the home, and the murder of the 2 additional people was collateral damage. The question was whether the members of the halfway house were a detriment to the neighborhood. It was found later that everyone in the home had a job, paid their rent and had to adhere to a strict set of house rules. That halfway house still exists as far as I know and hasn't been a problem since. The community has chosen to embrace it.

Here is a good news story about what happened:

http://www2.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=9649

12:08 PM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Eric said...

There are dangerous criminals who pass themselves off as mentally ill in order to game the system. As to how they are to be distinguished from mentally ill people with criminal records (which many mentally ill people have -- especially for nuisance activities), I don't know. Perhaps the standard should be to run background checks to determine whether they have records for committing violent crimes.

What worries me is that cities are increasingly mandating that felons be hired to work for the government. And the federal government is imposing new mandates that felons cannot be discriminated against in employment:

http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.7069/pub_detail.asp

This is a worrisome trend, and I don't think it points toward allowing background checks by group homes (especially those that get any sort of government funding).

12:48 PM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

my wife works with crown wards, some of whom are placed in group homes.

she and i both see that the assement of many of these children are poorly made or not made at all, resulting in placement breakdowns...occasionally with violent outcomes.

the issue is that many of these children suffer mentally and also that many group home staff and administrators aren`t trained to deal with mental illness in an effective way, which creates a time-bomb.(and may have issues of their own....)

recently a 14 year old boy in a group home told my wife, as his worker, that he hated his group home staffer and that he was going to stab him if he kept bullying him.

my wife filed a report, spoke to her boss about it and warned the group home in writing and on the phone of the potential for an attack and recommended that the child be given councelling for his agressive thoughts, but nothing was done and the boy stabbed the staffer in the thigh with a fork two weeks later.

1:28 PM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger LordSomber said...

The UK version of this:

http://winstonsmith33.blogspot.com/

Not very heartening.

1:39 PM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

There are dangerous criminals who pass themselves off as mentally ill in order to game the system.

For sure. We had a pyromaniac who was of genius IQ or close to it. Last I knew, he hadnt' caused any deaths or serious injuries but had burned down numerous structures including a house or two in the historic register. He was fully aware of right and wrong but got very little time, if any, due to his mental illness.

3:46 PM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Tracie said...

The problem is that we don't understand the needs of each individual and try to fit the round peg in the square hole. I understand the need to close some of the institutions because of the abuse but the pendulum has swung the opposite way and that's wrong. I am the aunt of that slain revere mental health worker Stephanie Moulton and our family was devastated by something that should never of happened. A 5' 2" woman should never be alone with a large deshaun chappell no matter what his past. They knew he was mentally ill that should have been enough!!

4:49 PM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Professor Hale said...

The violently mentally ill don't belong in jail either. What a lot of people don't consider is that the other jail inmates and prison workers also have an expectation to protection from violence.

When a person cannot be controlled or cured, they need to be put down. For the benefit of society. The next closest alternative is some kind of solitary confinement, which is inhumane in its own way.

2:58 PM, April 07, 2011  
Blogger Alex said...

Trey - I call bullshit on your assertion that Reagan emptied out the mental health facilities. Cite. Did he issue an executive order? Fess up.

4:43 PM, April 07, 2011  
Blogger JG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:08 PM, April 07, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...

Alex and Trey,

Deinstitutionalization actually started with Kennedy who took a special interest in the issue of mental health because his sister Rosemary was mentally disabled:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deinstitutionalisation#United_States

8:48 AM, April 08, 2011  
Blogger JG said...

"Alex and Trey,"

---

It kind of sounds like Alex and Trey were fighting children, and Mom had to step in.

Frankly, Alex has a good point about Trey throwing out apparent propaganda for whatever the Trey Agenda is. Whether Helen is able to type deinstitutionalization into the never-wrong Wikipedia or not.

7:27 PM, April 08, 2011  
Blogger JG said...

And naturally Trey says absolutely nothing about his comments.

7:28 PM, April 08, 2011  
Blogger Michael K said...

"The ACLU closed those facilities with de-institutionalization and now we have this kind of assault and more homeless people as a result."

Fixed it for you.

9:33 PM, April 08, 2011  

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