Author Archives: Mark Larsen

About Mark Larsen

Director, Mental Health Litigation

Distraught People, Deadly Results

According to a report in the Washington Post, police in the US have shot and killed 124 people this year who were in the throes of mental or emotional crisis, . The dead account for a quarter of the 462 people shot to death by police in the first six months of 2015. Read the article here.

MHLD Changes

The MHLD has instituted several changes for FY 2016. They are detailed in the attached memos and notice. Here is the CPCS Mental Health Registration and Court Preferences form for panel members to select which subpanel or panels they want to join, their court preferences and confirmation that they do not represent institutional petitioners in guardianship or civil commitment. Memo to Panel Members July 1, 2015Memo to Panel Limiting Panel Membership 06.23.15

Joan Mikula To Lead Department Of Mental Health

BOSTON — On May 11, EOHHS Secretary, Marylou Sudders, announced that Joan Mikula, has been promoted to serve as Commissioner of Mental Health; a position she has held on an interim basis since March. Mikula has worked for the Department since 1985, serving as Deputy and Assistant Commissioner of Child and Adolescent Services. She has prior experience in education, child welfare, criminal justice, and substance abuse treatment and served as Executive Director of a North Shore, non-profit human service agency. As Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, Mikula will oversee a public operated and private contracted mental health system serving an estimated 23,000 individuals with mental illness and their families. More from Mass.gov.

SCOTUS Decides First Police-Shooting Case Since Ferguson. Police Get Qualified Immunity

If you’re a police officer called on to help a woman coping with a serious mental illness, but on arrival, she feels threatened after you use a key to let yourself into her apartment, what do you do? What if, in response to your entry, she grabs a small kitchen knife and yells, “I am going to kill you. I don’t need help”? The Supreme Court decided that if you shoot her multiple times, you get qualified immunity. They were able to avoid answering the question of whether the ADA required them to make accommodations due to her disability since the petitioner (City and County of San Francisco) didn’t argue the issue on appeal. The case is not over, nor is the ADA issue resolved. The case was remanded to the US District Court. Here is a link to the opinion and some commentary on the decision. Don’t forget to look Scalia’s concurrence with whom Justice Kagan concurred. Commentary in
NY Magazine

Urban Institute Issue Report on Mentally Ill in Prisons and Jails

The prevalence of mental illness is significant. Well over 50% of state prison and jail inmates report having mental health problems. For women the number is even higher. The report highlights the fact that mentally ill prisoners tend to have higher recidivism rates than those without mental health problems. This is concerning not only because it indicates that people who suffer from mental illness may have trouble establishing a self-sustaining and law-abiding life after release from prison, but also because it has a direct impact on economic and societal costs. On the economic side, these include criminal justice costs (such as those incurred by the police, courts, jails, parole, probation, and prisons). Societal costs include things like victimization and reduced educational or employment opportunities. Read the report.

Human Rights Watch Issues report: “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons”

The report issued this week, details incidents in which correctional staff have deluged prisoners with painful chemical sprays, shocked them with powerful electric stun weapons, and strapped them for days in restraining chairs or beds. Staff have broken prisoners’ jaws, noses, ribs; left them with lacerations requiring stitches, second-degree burns, deep bruises, and damaged internal organs. In some cases, the force used has led to their death. Read HRW press release and entire report.

For a look at a what can happen in Massachusetts, WGBH had a segment about the Joshua Messier case this past week on Greater Boston.

PBS News Hour Report: A minority view on hospice and end of life care.

“Black seniors are more likely than whites and Latinos to forgo hospice care. Due to deeply felt religious beliefs and a long history of discrimination in the U.S., African-American patients are often reluctant to plan for the end of their lives, and more skeptical when doctors suggest stopping treatment. Special correspondent Sarah Varney reports on efforts to change some of those beliefs.”
Link to PBD News Hour