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Lawsuit Filed Against the Michigan Department of Human and Health Services

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Lawsuit Filed Against the Michigan Department of Human and Health Services
Individuals found “not guilty by reason of insanity” face unlawful policies and practices

Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Inc. (MPAS) joined a lawsuit filed on behalf of individuals found “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI) against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The suit alleges MDHHS has failed to fulfill its legal obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for unlawful policies and practices that subject these NGRI individuals to repeated unlawful involuntary civil commitment. It also alleges constitutional due process violations. MPAS joined the lawsuit as an organization seeking systemic change in the NGRI system.

The lead plaintiff, who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, was arrested in 2005 after a psychotic episode. At that time, he was not diagnosed or receiving medication for his illness. He was civilly committed to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry where he responded well to his treatment and medication. Upon his release, the plaintiff was required to sign a contract dictating a series of parole-like conditions of his release. The penalty for violating a condition of his 5-year contract was an immediate return to custody with no opportunity to contest his return and no access to court-appointed legal counsel. He is currently living in the community.

“In Michigan’s state psychiatric hospitals, individuals deemed not guilty by reason of insanity are patients, not prisoners.  Therefore, they are entitled to therapeutic, rather than punitive treatment,” said Mark Cody, Legal Director for MPAS. “The intentional isolation they face deprives them of their sense of dignity, respect, and self-worth as their lives are micromanaged far worse that those convicted of crimes. These unconstitutional and discriminatory policies, deeply rooted in a mental health stigma, deny patients critical treatment and their quality of life.”

This suit was filed on behalf of several NGRI individuals who, because of illegitimate policies, face spending years of their lives unnecessarily and unconstitutionally confined to state-operated psychiatric hospitals. Individuals deemed NGRI are not being served in the most integrated setting when appropriate for discharge nor are receiving individualized therapeutic treatment to give them a realistic chance to be successful in the community.

Through access authority granted to it by federal law, MPAS regularly monitors the five state operated psychiatric hospitals in Michigan. MPAS also investigates and represents individuals in disputes with state psychiatric hospital staff and community mental health service providers with regard to abuse and neglect, treatment, discharge planning, and placement. MPAS is hopeful this litigation will stop the unnecessary confinement of patients, stop the failure or refusal to provide necessary treatment in the community, and stop the delay of appropriate timely release.

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Posted on:
September 18, 2018