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MPAS Lawsuit Against MDHHS Clears Hurdle

Brown Gavel

MPAS Lawsuit Against MDHHS Clears Hurdle
Motion to Dismiss Denied

Lansing, MI – A federal court ruled Friday that a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), filed to restore the rights of individuals deemed not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI), may proceed.

This suit was filed by Ann Arbor attorneys Laurence H. Margolis and James Gallagher, and was later joined by MPAS, on behalf of individuals adjudicated NGRI for criminal charges in Michigan courts. These individuals face spending years of their lives confined to state-operated psychiatric hospitals, even when they are psychiatrically stable and pose little risk to the public. Often, individuals deemed NGRI remain in state psychiatric hospitals for far longer than the maximum sentences they could have received had they simply pled guilty to relatively minor offenses. When they are permitted to reside outside the hospital, these individuals are typically subject to strict conditions of release, preventing them from working, attending school, living with relatives, or even driving a car without advance written permission from the MDHHS “NGRI Committee.” Individuals permitted to reside in the community have had their leave status suddenly revoked for alleged misconduct as minor as drinking a beer or staying out past curfew without any opportunity to appeal or contest their involuntary rehospitalization.

In a 76-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Paul D. Borman denied several motions filed by MDHHS to have the case dismissed.  In his decision, Judge Borman wrote “the Court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged, and Defendants have not denied, that the NGRI Committee members failed to provide state-required appeal notice after it revoked ALS (Alternative Leave Status) privileges, reinstating confinement in hospitals.” He further wrote, in the context of claims raised under the Americans with Disabilities Act, while the state’s treatment professionals may claim hospitalization is appropriate, it “of course does not provide them with a free pass to violate patient’s constitutional and statutory rights.”

“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 Kyle Williams, 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 than 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.”

Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Inc. (MPAS) is the independent, private, nonprofit organization designated by the governor of the State of Michigan to advocate and protect the legal rights of people with disabilities in Michigan.


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Posted on:
September 26, 2019