Michelle Garcia, PsyD and Associates - "Improving Quality of Life"

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Monthly Informative Post - September 2012

The following is a monthly informational/editorial piece, to create discussions and shed light on events and/or situations that may occur within the areas of which we practice and/or participate. Please note that any piece submitted is based on issues that have been generated from situations that are of public record. Please refrain from issuing any comments regarding situations that are of privilage and not public record:
     As I am sure a lot of you have heard already, a fatal shooting took place this past weekend at an assisted care home for the mentally ill in Houston, TX. This home is very similar to the HCS/ICFMR homes with which we are very familiar. The link to one of the most recent articles from the Houston Chronicle follows: Amputee shot by police had battled mental illness - HoustonChronicle
     This situation has created an outcry from advocates and support groups for individuals diagnosed with Mental Illness, which is a common dual diagnosis with the IDD population we work hard to support. I have personally been involved in situations at group homes (for which we provide behavioral services) during which the local police were called to the scene and persisted to handle crisis situations in a less than appropriate manner.  For instance, I have been witness to the police calling the direct support staff “stupid for working there” and state “we are tired of coming out here, these individuals don’t belong in the community”.  During an incident where an individual threatened to kill everyone in the house including myself, police arrived and asked him if he had a weapon, to which he replied ‘no’ so they told him he can’t say things like that and then left and claimed that there is nothing that they can do with the individual because of their diagnosis (here is the link to the Texas Statutes regarding the emergency detention of individuals diagnosed with IDD or Mental Illness HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE  CHAPTER 573. EMERGENCYDETENTION). 
      I am sure that you have witnessed, heard stories or been a part of situations similar to these and I encourage you to share your stories, comments, and concerns with us in the comments section below.
      I think it is extremely important that this issue be addressed with our police throughout the state. It is imperative that these officers that are sworn to protect and serve, do exactly that, regardless of the population that they encounter. I am not here to pass judgment on the officers involved in this tragic situation, as I was not there. That being said, I do feel the situation could have been handled differently, perhaps with more careful discretion from the officers, better communication between the home staff and officers/dispatch, or increased supports in place for the individual.
     The bottom line is that a man prematurely lost his life on Saturday.  From the current information we have on this event it is my personal feeling that this situation could have been avoided with more thorough training of officers regarding the specific problems and difficulties of the population we serve and an increased knowledge on how to appropriately support and interact with these individuals.
                                     -Brandon Delgado

12 Comments to Monthly Informative Post - September 2012:

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Laurel Fauster on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 4:46 PM
Dear Mr. Delgado, I agree fully with your assertion that police officers require more training in dealing with situations involving those who suffer from mental illness. Having been an officer for 16 years and a police instructor, it is surprising and saddening that in these times negative beliefs regarding mental illness still exist. The prejudice displayed by almost every student I had was horrifying. After training and education, the change in attitudes was amazing. This was one of the factors that decided my retiring from police work and seeking education to become a forensic psychologist. I handled many situations involving persons who had mental illness and who were also violent/delusional/suicidal, etc. It requires immense patience and the ability to communicate with the person effectively to help solve the crisis. But most officers either leave the scene with no thought of care for the person in question, or they decide that jail is the most viable "solution". This is abjectly inappropriate. The law as well as common sense dictates that the attitude must be palliative rather than punitive. To punish or abandon a human being due to an illness that they cannot control is reprehensible. I applaud your efforts to call attention to this issue. Yours, Laurel Fauster
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