Additional funding and resources for mental health. Justice for the victims.

Additional funding and resources for mental health. Justice for the victims.

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Justin James started this petition to Governor Matt Bevin and

Dear Elected Officials,

We petition that additional funding and resources be allocated to Mental Health services in Kentucky. 

(1) In 2015, Kentucky rated 45th (5th from last) in mental health funding per-capita, meanwhile it is 49th (2nd from last) in mental well-being.

(2) Violent crimes have increased exponentially since 2013, with over 250 murders in 2016 alone in Kentucky.

(3) According to research, up to 17% of murders are committed by someone with a mental illness, specifically Schizophrenia. This means that 42 murders committed in 2016 alone, could have been prevented.

This petition for change, unfortunately, comes too late for a recent murder in Florence, KY on 12/1/18. The suspect, 32 year old, Jesse James murdered the victim, 26 year old, Amanda Webster in a hotel room, where she was staying while traveling for work. Amanda was a mother of three, she had parents, family, friends that loved and cherished her. She is no longer able to tuck her children in at night, or call her parents to tell them that she loves them, she’s not able to watch her children grow up and start their own life, they are unable to call to their mother when their stomachs hurt, or they lose their first tooth.

As tragic as this is, it was entirely preventable. Like so many of the other murders in the State of Kentucky, this murder stemmed from the lack of mental health resources made available to your constituents. Funding cut after funding cut, mental health services have declined or disappeared. The ones that are left are underfunded, understaffed, lack integrity and skill, and are forced to usher dangerous people out quickly just to “free up a bed”. Specific programs designed to assist schizophrenics with a high success rate, do not get any funding at all (4).

The defendant in this particular case has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since he was 17 years old. He was properly medicated, and although reclusive and eccentric, was pretty well managed. This was until he attempted suicide. Once he attempted suicide, his parents took him to the hospital where he was placed in St. Elizabeth, Florence, Mental Health Unit. Due to lack of training, his door was left ajar and he attacked a nurse in the hallway, nearly choking her to death. From there, charges were pressed and then begins his drastic descent. He was processed and found not competent to stand trial so he was sent to Eastern State Hospital that specializes in mental health. He was released just weeks after he arrived as he “wasn’t bad enough”. He then came back to his parents and pretended to be better, the assumption was Eastern somehow helped him. Turns out, he was self-medicating with illicit drugs which only exacerbated his disease. From there he went on binges: fighting, threatening violence against himself and others. These threats became actions: attacking his parents, choking a security guard while in jail, and harming himself through various means. Almost every time he acted out he was jailed, assessed, and sent back into the streets to do it all over again. He ended up in the specialty care of Eastern State Hospital on two other occasions, to be shown the door within days of arriving. Needless to say, things have escalated. His parents are scared of what he is going to do. In early 2018, he was jailed for possession, again. He was then put into Mental Health Court. At this time, all parties of power: Judge, Attorney, Mental Health Court supervisor were advised that he is a danger and he needed help and should not be on the street. This went on throughout all of 2018, in and out, and in and out of jail. Passing through everyone’s hands. Each time his parents reached out the Mental Health Court supervisor pleading for her help to get him somewhere where he could be stabilized and to ensure that he was being medicated while in custody, which more times than not, he wasn’t being. In October 2018 he was arrested again for probation violation. This time was different. One of his last contacts with the family, Kenton County Jail refused to give him any additional medicine because he refused to swallow a pill. Unsurprisingly, he began getting into fights that Correction Officers would often encourage (according to witnesses), and be placed in isolation for days. Over and over, this cycle repeated. Finally, with his scheduled release date fast approaching, his mother made her final pleas to the Mental Health Court, the Kenton County Police Captain, and Governor Bevins' office. Despite her warnings, he was released on 11/29/18 under the condition that he was evaluated by Sun Behavioral Health, and if he passed their assessment then he would be guided to a homeless shelter as they have very limited occupancy at Sun. Fortunately, or so his parents thought, he was being admitted into the program due to his mental state. Without notice, they released him on 11/30/18 back to the streets. He then checked himself into the room where he violently murdered Amanda in the morning hours of 12/1/18.

This is a total injustice to all parties, but most specifically to an innocent woman visiting your state to work. This is the cost of withholding funding to essential mental health services.  

In this situation there are no winners, only losers. Our state is suffering a mental health crisis and there will only be more senseless and preventable tragedies like this to come. You can start by holding the very few State facilities accountable for releasing dangerous individuals prematurely. You can work together as State officials to expand funding for mental health facilities and services. You can monitor and control the county jail systems and implement policies requiring adherence to medication or to be transferred to a facility with that authority.

We are demanding lasting justice for Amanda, and everyone that has died by the hands of someone with an untreated mental illness.

We are demanding a better mental health system for Jesse, and everyone suffering from a mental illness that is unable to acquire sustained help. This must not ever happen again.

We respectfully demand that you take action immediately, you are Kentucky’s elected leaders and we need leadership on this matter to prevent more senseless tragedies from happening.

 

Sources:

1) https://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/05/03/ky-among-worst-mental-illness/26850825/

2) https://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/kentucky/

3) https://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/evidence-and-research/learn-more-about/3627

4) http://dbhdid.ky.gov/dbh/act.aspx

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