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TAC Newsletter 3/24/06


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March 24, 2006


1. PROMISE OF CARE MADE BUT BROKEN - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 20, 2006

November 28, 2005



[Editor’s Note: Deinstitutionalization – the shifting of hundreds of thousands
of people with severe mental illnesses from professional inpatient care in
psychiatric hospitals to the community. Thanks in large part to improvements in
medications and methods of community care, a good portion of those released
during deinstitutionalization have thrived through this transition and achieved
independent lives of a significance impossible to attain in the confinement of
an inpatient institution. For many others, closing hospitals meant being
stripped of vitally needed support while restrictive commitment standards
foreclosed their being rescued from all but the most acute manifestations of
their illness.

In one of the stories in a three-day, exhaustively researched series for the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Meg Kissinger portrays the haphazard and often
squalid fortune of many of those who still suffer in the aftermath of the
dramatic reconfiguration of our framework for the care of people with severe
mental illness. Many other articles have displayed the confounding condition
of those left adrift in the community, but Ms. Kissinger adds something more: a
look at both the previous system and how we came to have the present one.]


By Meg Kissinger

Of all the places where the county sends people who are being released from its
psychiatric hospital, Dawn Powell's houses are four of the worst.

In the past four years, City of Milwaukee building inspectors have found that
her places have:

Backed-up toilets.
Insufficient heat.
Broken smoke detectors.
Dangling electrical wires.
Deteriorating porches.
Filthy carpeting.
A lack of proper exits.
A host of structural defects.

She's been fined $3,520, money she still owes the city. There is a warrant for
her arrest, and she has served time in jail for failing to pay her fines.

Twelve years ago, Milwaukee County signed an agreement in federal court,
promising to ensure that all people with chronic mental illness have proper
living arrangements after being discharged from what was then the Milwaukee
County Mental Health Complex.

So, why does the city allow Powell's group homes to remain open? Why do county
caseworkers still send their clients to her?

Passengers along I-43 can see her wood-frame duplexes on the western side of the
freeway, between Burleigh St. and Keefe Ave. But what they can't see are the
horrifying things that go on inside. The people who live there say mice run up
the walls as they are taking showers, and roaches invade the pantry and climb
over their beds.

Powell, a nursing assistant, solicits clients from the county with the promise
of diligent care. She charges each of her eight tenants $500 a month.

It was at one of her houses, on May 20, 2004, that John Collins, 42, who
suffered from multiple sclerosis, depression and anxiety, fell from his
wheelchair and down the front stairs, cracking his head on the pavement. He died
a month later. For weeks after that, someone used the dead man's food stamp
card. The county has launched a criminal investigation after being told of the
card's use by the Journal Sentinel this month. Powell denied that she was the
one to use the card but added, "I could see why someone would think that."

Powell conceded that her places need work but said she is contributing a
valuable service to those in Milwaukee who suffer from schizophrenia and bipolar
disease, conditions that cloud thinking and can bring on terrifying

"I take the people no one else will take," said Powell, who does not have a
license to operate a group home or a permit to run a rooming house. "This is a
whole lot of work. Believe me, no one is getting rich."

City building inspectors say there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of people like
Powell who are not licensed or regulated but run businesses that provide housing
for people who are disabled by mental illness.

A few weeks ago, a county caseworker moved Bessie Johnson, a 59-year-old woman
with diabetes and schizophrenia, from an illegal rooming house because she
needed more care. A Journal Sentinel reporter and photographer had found Johnson
lying on a bare mattress soaked in her urine. Mounds of spent toilet paper
surrounded her. Johnson was told that she would be moving into a group home.

Where was she placed?

She now lives at one of Powell's homes, a building that has been cited in the
past year for roach infestation and is under investigation of mouse infestation,
filthy conditions, a broken smoke detector and a lack of access to the basement.

On April 23, 2004 - four weeks before Collins fell down the stairs - city
inspectors were given a tip that Powell was running an illegal group home. An
inspector found no violation. The following January -- six months after Collins
died - the city got another call alleging that Powell was running an illegal
group home. This time, the inspector could not get in the house. He wrote a
letter asking Powell to provide a list of all the tenants. She did not comply,
but inspectors failed to follow up.

Todd Weiler, spokesman for the city Department of Neighborhood Services, said
inspectors typically give landlords the benefit of the doubt on a first
complaint. Though this was the second allegation of Powell running an illegal
group home, Weiler said it was treated as though it were the first because the
inspector did not verify the earlier complaint. Apparently, each violation at
Powell's homes was treated as a separate issue.

Ronald Roberts, the city's building inspection supervisor, said homes such as
the ones owned by Powell escape their radar because people rarely complain. Or,
if they do, infractions are hard to verify because owners know how to hide their
tenants when inspectors come to call.


New Era Of Care Fails To Deliver On Promise Of A Better Life

Thirty years ago, a Milwaukee County lawsuit brought by West Allis schoolteacher
Alberta Lessard sparked a revolution in the way the United States cares for
people with mental illness. Thousands of patients who had been committed to
mental institutions were released.

Life for many with mental illness has not gotten easier in the new era. Often,
it got worse; many ended up in jail or homeless.

The Journal Sentinel found hundreds ushered out of hospitals by their
caseworkers and placed in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods and
dilapidated buildings. Hundreds of Milwaukee's most mentally ill people have
been abandoned through bureaucratic neglect, uneven administration of judicial
protections and legislative sleight of hand.

"Basically, they didn't fix a thing," said Diane Greenley, a lawyer for
Disability Rights Wisconsin, when told of the newspaper's findings. Greenley was
one of the many lawyers for advocacy groups that brought the lawsuit against the
county. "The county says they have no choice. That there is no place to put
these people. But, if these dumps were closed, we'd be forced to do something."

Architects of the new system now say they regret how things have turned out.

"We blew it," said Jon Gudeman, who served as medical director at what is now
known as the Behavioral Health Division during the massive downsizing of the
1970s and '80s. He recalls getting a federal directive to shut down wards and
thinking, "Oh, my God, where are they all going to go?"

Sister Lucina Halbur, a nurse who worked in a mental hospital in Winnebago
County beginning in 1961 and led a campaign to close down some of the worst
ones, said: "I naively worked for years to get these people out of those scary
old places, and look what has happened to them. It's pathetic what we have done
to these people. No one can deny that. It's all right there in our face."

Even Tom Zander, the public defender who took up Lessard's groundbreaking case
against her commitment, now says he regrets that so many care facilities have
been shuttered without being replaced by something better. He said he felt
betrayed by cynical policy-makers who wrapped themselves in the cloak of civil
liberties when their real agenda was to trim their budgets.

"People with mental illness have been left out in the cold. Literally. It's
inhumane," Zander said. "I never said, 'Let's close all mental hospitals.' I
said, 'Let's close all the ones with locks on the doors.' "



Milwaukee's first mental hospital, known as the Milwaukee County Asylum for the
Chronic Insane, opened in 1880 on the County Grounds in Wauwatosa. The state
reimbursed the county $1.50 a week for every patient in its care. At the peak of
institutionalization in the 1940s and '50s, Milwaukee County housed some 6,000
people with mental illness in several locations. Accommodations were anything
but lavish, usually two to a room, sleeping on cots and sharing a sink. There
was no psychiatry or meaningful therapy, said Bill Baker, who worked there as an
internist. People were basically drugged and warehoused.

But he remembers lots of camaraderie and the care of capable, if stern, Polish
and German immigrant nurses and aides. Meals were nutritious, if not delicious.
The places were clean and orderly. Patients were taken on outings to events such
as the State Fair and Milwaukee Braves baseball games.

"These were not the snake pits you hear about," said Baker, noting that
Milwaukee was one of the first places to do away with the use of straitjackets.
"The director who ran the place was wise and kind."

By 1955, Wisconsin had more than 14,000 patients in state and county mental

In that same year came the advent of Thorazine, an anti-psychotic drug that
helps organize thinking and reduce delusions. Patients who had been confined to
locked wards were given more freedom. Society as a whole had begun to demand
expansions of civil liberties for women and minorities and, eventually, for
patients locked in asylums. Ken Kesey's 1962 novel, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest," detailed the abuses of mental hospitals and furthered the passion for
reform. The book's most infamous character, the sadistic Nurse Ratched, served
as an icon for everything wrong with the system - humiliation, forced
medication, utter intolerance for anyone who dared to stand up to authority.

It was against that backdrop, in October 1971, that West Allis police picked up
Lessard on a reported suicide attempt. Lessard was taken to the Milwaukee County
Mental Health Complex, where she was committed. Indignant, Lessard vowed to take
her case as far as she could to earn back her freedom. She enlisted the help of
Milwaukee Legal Services, and together they took the case all the way to the
U.S. Supreme Court. Lessard and her legal team argued that mental patients
should be afforded the same constitutional protections as criminal defendants.
After all, they risked paying the same price - losing their liberty. Ultimately,
the Supreme Court agreed with the ruling from the federal district court that
the law, as it had been applied, violated constitutional protections.

From then on, the state would have to prove that a person was both mentally ill
and in immediate danger of harming himself or herself or others.

Mental health law had been turned upside down. Commitment became a cumbersome
and expensive ordeal - preliminary hearings, evidence gathering, testimony,
final hearings. In time, the policies of commitment would vary vastly from
county to county. A case that would move easily to a commitment hearing in La
Crosse, for example, might never get to court in Milwaukee, where lawyers,
facing much bigger caseloads, were quicker to work out plea agreements.

Vance Baker, a psychiatrist who practices in Milwaukee and La Crosse, said he
still sees a huge difference in the way patients with the same illness are
treated. "In Milwaukee, the philosophy is to give the people what they want, not
what they need," he said. "It's like a different planet."


Little money, cheap hotels and ever-dwindling options

Federal, state and county policy-makers from all over the nation followed the
Lessard case with keen interest. The court decision to tighten the requirements
for commitment provided an opportunity to reduce spending on mental
institutions. Almost immediately, the federal government, which had begun
funding mental health care in the 1960s, sent directives to mental hospital
administrators to redesign their programs from inpatient to community care.

It was supposed to work like this: Patients released from the hospital would be
put on Social Security disability. They would be given a monthly stipend for
living expenses and be allowed to live where they chose. They would be treated
in clinics that would be scattered around the community.

In 1975, there were 4,000 beds available in Milwaukee County for inpatient
treatment of mental illness. Now there are fewer than 100.

As soon as the mental wards began to empty, E. Michael McCann's phone started to

"I'd get these frantic calls from parents saying, 'They let Johnny out, and he's
going wild, threatening us,' " said McCann, Milwaukee County's district attorney
since 1968. "I'd tell them this: 'Sharpen the stick, and put it to his eye. And
then force him off the property. Tell him that, if he comes back, you'll call
the cops. And they can either charge him criminally or commit him civilly.' "

That worked for a time, said McCann, until the police learned that they had no
power to get people committed, either.

With their income below the poverty level and their ability to hold a steady job
compromised, the legions of former mental patients had few places where they
could afford to live. The sickest headed to rooming houses and cheaper hotels
that dotted downtown and the immediate surrounding area - places such as the
Antler Hotel, the Randolph Hotel and Hotel Wisconsin. Diners and inexpensive
chain restaurants, such as Lenrak's on Old World 3rd St. and George Webb, became
their new dining rooms. The waitresses were no replacement for the aides of the
old asylum days, but the good ones knew to remind their favorite customers to
change their socks every once in a while and, hey, it wouldn't hurt to take a
shower, either.

Suddenly, people with obvious mental illness turned up all over the city - among
the stacks at the downtown library, in the hallways of the county courthouse, in
the atrium at the Grand Avenue mall, on the sidewalks at Rainbow Summer along
the Milwaukee River. Some started living on the sidewalks and under bridges.

Then came the bulldozers. Milwaukee began to gentrify downtown in the late 1980s
and early '90s. The ratty rooming houses and seedy hotels closed or were
renovated. The diaspora of Milwaukee's mental patients continued; the number of
legal rooming houses in the city dropped from 1,500 in 1985 to 172 in 2005.

Holly Gardenier, who ran a homeless shelter in Milwaukee called the Guest House,
saw the number of homeless people with mental illness spike.

"They slipped through a widening abyss," Gardenier said. "There was a whole
underbelly of people that was simply forgotten in these grand plans."

Jails and prisons, too, began to fill with people with mental illness. The
state's prison population tripled in the decade beginning in 1980, largely with
prisoners who were mentally ill and in the past would have been in mental
hospitals. The Legislative Audit Bureau estimates that one-fourth of all prison
inmates have a form of mental illness, from depression to severe, chronic
diseases such as schizophrenia. Of 18,634 prisoners counted in a 2003 census,
4,610 had a diagnosed mental illness, including about 1,500 with serious
disorders, according to prison officials.


People With Mental Illness Pushed From Public Housing

Not even the city's public housing, designated for poor people, would provide
relief to the severe mentally ill. With demand so much greater than supply, the
waiting list for public housing was five or six years by the early 1990s.
Exacerbating the problem was then-Mayor John O. Norquist's decision to expel
people with mental illness from much of the city's public housing. There had
been episodes in the city's high-rise housing complexes - suicides, a shooting
and reports of older residents who had been harassed by drug dealers. Older
residents were frightened and lobbying hard for reform. People with mental
illness were labeled troublemakers.

The Norquist administration made a choice: Half of the city's 14 public housing
facilities would be classified as "elderly only." Everyone else, regardless of
disability, would have to leave those seven buildings. Federal housing officials
were furious and threatened to sue the city for discrimination. Norquist didn't

"We knew that the decision would cause problems elsewhere in other systems -
that it would increase homelessness and impact the mental health system,"
recalled Ricardo Diaz, housing authority director under Norquist. "But we had to
keep in mind what our job was - to provide safe and sanitary housing."

Jim Hill, now administrator of Milwaukee County's Behavioral Health Division,
was working for the city housing division at the time of Norquist's showdown
with the federal government. He recalls the rift and cringes to think how much
goodwill was spent and funding lost.

"The city left a lot of (federal) money on the table - money that could have
been spent on our people," Hill said, referring to housing subsidies that could
have come to Milwaukee.

With no other place to go, people like Collins and Johnson ended up in places
like Powell's homes.

Johnny Collins grimaces when he thinks of his son's last weeks and how he died.

"He was paying for someone to watch out for him, and no one did," Collins said.
"That wasn't right."


CANTON REPOSITORY (OH), November 28, 2005

[Editor’s Note: If you wish to know how completely the symptoms of an illness
like schizophrenia can control one’s actions, look to the Matt Morgan of
fourteen years ago. And to see how effectively medication can treat those
symptoms, turn to the Matt Morgan of today.

No pharmaceutical, however, can eliminate the pulsing guilt from the devastation
caused by his untreated illness. Neither are we aware of any treatment that
will alleviate what must be the immense burden carried by the doctor who decided
to “wean” Matt Morgan off of psychotropic medications.]


By Encarnacion Pyle

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Matt Morgan invites friends over after work for chicken
casserole and spaghetti dinners.

He and his girlfriend curl up on the couch to watch Days of Our Lives.

He goes to dollar-movie theaters, plays Scrabble and sings karaoke.

This is his life, one so ordinary it’s indistinguishable in his working-class
neighborhood on the Far West Side, where everyone knows everyone else by name.

But his life defies his history, the dark times that his neighbors couldn’t

They don’t know that schizophrenic visions and voices once controlled him.

They don’t know he spent nine years in a state psychiatric hospital.

They don’t know what he’s done and how hard he’s worked the past 14 years to
become ordinary.

They don’t know he killed his parents.

“I’ve been to hell and back,” said Matt, now 38, “and I still don’t know how I

It started near the end of high school.

Matt began hallucinating, hearing voices and thinking everyone, including
friends and family, wanted to kill him.

He became homeless, drifted across the country and tried to hang himself.

Then, he learned he had schizophrenia.

He received treatment and medication at a mental hospital in Pennsylvania but
was weaned off the drugs once he returned home to Fairfield County.

His parents tried to get him help, but no one would listen.

The pieces were in place for tragedy.

On July 25, 1991, he interrupted a late-night card game at his parents’ house in
Lancaster by shooting his parents and sister Marla.

Jerry and Marlene Morgan died; Marla was severely wounded.

“I can still hear the voices telling me, ’Shoot them and it will all be over.
The pain will go away. You’ll no longer be mentally ill,”’ Matt said, forcing
back tears.

“I was so delirious.”

A year later, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity after psychiatrists
testified that he had become dangerous because he had been taken off his

Matt knows some people think he got off easy and should be sitting in a cell —
even though he’s subject to court-ordered monitoring and rules that are stricter
than if he were on parole from prison.

But they don’t see how haunted he is.

He has had chest pains, nightmares, trouble breathing and uncontrollable crying

“I feel this deep regret, like I’ve robbed so many friends and family, and even
myself, of these wonderful, important people,” Matt said.

Though proud of his recovery, Matt is anxious about slipping up.

But his doctors, friends and loved ones say he’s proof that treatment works, so
long as he sticks to it.

“I feel very comfortable it won’t happen again,” said Marla, 44, who still has a
bullet lodged in her brain.

“Matt wants to get better, has worked hard to get better and will have to face a
lot of issues the rest of his life because of what he has done.

“But as long as he continues with his therapy and medication and people are
watching him, he’ll be all right. We all will.”

The youngest of six children, Matt likens his childhood to the idyllic, 1950s
world of Leave It to Beaver.

“We lived in a neighborhood of manicured lawns, perfect trees and children
riding bicycles,” he said.

His father, a retired police officer, spent nearly three decades with the
Lancaster Fire Department before starting a real-estate business with his wife.

His mother watched the children until they were in school.

She later became a real-estate agent and opened Morgan Realty in their home.

Matt’s life began unraveling in 1985, his senior year.

He skipped school, his grades fell and he had to attend summer classes to

Matt enlisted in the Marine Corps but was medically discharged two months later
because he had flat feet.

He drifted from job to job over the next several years, always struggling with
distorted perceptions.

“I saw dragons flying through the air. I believed radio DJs and TV characters
were talking to me. And I thought everyone was out to get me,” he said.

“I couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t.”

Matt planned to hang himself from a tree along a country road in the winter of
1989. But his car became stuck in snow and he fell asleep.

Deputy sheriffs found him and sent him home after determining he wasn’t a

The next year, the Morgans kicked him out after Matt tried to punch his father.

He lived with a friend for three days but decided he had to leave, so he began
hitchhiking to Key West, Fla.

“I had to be alone. I couldn’t control myself,” he said.

He slept under bridges, wandered around drunk and went for days without eating.
His family didn’t know what had happened to him.

“He just disappeared,” said his oldest brother, Jay, of Marion.

Two months later, Matt tried to hang himself again, this time from the rafters
of an abandoned building in Key West. But he changed his mind and cut himself
down, suffering only minor rope burns.

Instead he went to Philadelphia, where he walked into the emergency room at
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

“I told them I was having a nervous breakdown,” he said.

Doctors said he had “schizophreniform disorder,” which essentially has the same
symptoms as schizophrenia but lasts less than six months.

He ultimately was transferred to a respite facility where Dr. Miles Landenheim
determined that Matt had developed a paranoid delusional system. It was only a
matter of time before he would have full-blown schizophrenia.

During his 12 weeks at the center, Matt received intensive therapy and
medication, including the powerful antipsychotic Navane and antidepressant
Elavil. His paranoia decreased, and he started to understand his illness.

Landenheim decided Matt should return to his parents, but only if he continued
treatment. He returned to Ohio on June 22, 1990.

Three weeks later, he went to the Fairfield Family Counseling Center, where Dr.
Harold Brown spent 30 minutes evaluating him.

A month later, after receiving Matt’s records from Pennsylvania and meeting with
him for another 15 minutes, Brown began reducing his medication because he
thought Matt was faking his symptoms to qualify for Social Security benefits.

In October, Brown cut Matt’s medication again and told him he would be weaned
off it entirely. Mrs. Morgan begged the center to resume his prescription
because she was worried about him.

Among other things, Matt pounded telephone poles with baseball bats and cried
about an aerial attack on his head.

His parents tried to get him hospitalized through probate court. Mrs. Morgan
told the deputy clerk “she hoped this didn’t blow up in our faces.”

About a week later, Matt pointed his finger at his father’s head while they were
watching TV and said, “I’m going to blow your brains out.”

Frightened, the Morgans sent a letter to a psychologist at Fairfield Family
Counseling Center.

“Matt has slipped both mentally and physically, and he refuses medication. ...
Can you help us?”

The day Matt shot his parents, he couldn’t stop fidgeting at lunch. Marla and
other relatives noticed he was walking around the house, talking nonsense.

He went upstairs into his room, came down agitated and stormed onto the back

“My father told me, ’Don’t do anything to set him off,”’ Marla said.

But things seemed to have blown over by 10 p.m. when Marla, Matt and their
parents decided to play cards.

At one point, Matt accused his sister of changing the face of the cards, but
Marla laughed it off.

About 20 minutes later, Matt excused himself to use the upstairs bathroom.
Instead, he pulled a .22-caliber gun from his bedroom.

“My head was spinning,” Matt said. “I thought the government had replaced my
parents and sister with people who wanted to hurt me.”

He said voices told him to kill them.

“It wasn’t a matter of knowing right from wrong,” he said. “There was only one
way to survive, one way to get relief.”

No one noticed the gun until he put it to his father’s head.

Marla’s memory of the event remains fuzzy. She thought Matt had a cap gun until
he told their father something like, “This is for all the pain you’ve put me
through the past year.”

Mr. Morgan, 60, crumpled to the floor in a pool of blood as Marlene, 58, and
Marla, then 29, screamed.

Matt, then 24, walked around the table and shot his mother, who fell at her
husband’s feet.

Marla jumped out of her chair and threw her hands in the air, screaming, “Don’t

She passed out as Matt pointed the gun at her.

When she came to, she thought she had bumped her head on the table. She pulled
herself up the hallway wall as Matt ran out the door. She dialed 911, saying,
“I’m just real sick.”

Her mother stirred, gasping for air.

Firefighters found Marla standing in the front entrance in shock, blood
spattered on her white sweat shirt. She found out at the hospital that she had
been shot.

The next thing Matt remembers is calling 911 from a pay phone. He didn’t say who
he was or what he had done, only that shots had been fired at their Briarwood
Court home. He then walked nearly 3 miles to the police station and turned
himself in.

He told officers his head hurt.

“I have so much head pain. I couldn’t take it no more, I couldn’t take it no
more,” he said.

“I know I gotta be sick, I know I gotta be sick. Oh God, please forgive me.”

Mr. Morgan died in the house. Mrs. Morgan died two days later at Grant Medical

Marla spent a month in the hospital and underwent months of rehabilitation to
regain her balance and coordination. She still has no peripheral vision in her
left eye.

“I’ve worked through my recovery. I’m now trying to help Matt,” Marla said.
“That’s what my parents would have wanted.”

After the shootings, it wasn’t clear whether Matt ever would be free again. He
was charged with murder and admitted to the Central Ohio Psychiatric Hospital,
now called Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare, in October 1991 to restore his
competency so he could stand trial.

Psychiatrists noted he had a “glued-on smile,” showed no emotion while
discussing the tragedy and whispered to himself, all signs of his illness.

Eight months later, in June 1992, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity
on two counts of aggravated murder and one count each of attempted murder and
felonious assault.

The insanity defense is raised in less than 1 percent of felony cases nationwide
and succeeds in only a quarter of those cases.

“There’s a public perception that lots of people plead not guilty by reason of
insanity, but it’s the exception,” said Doug DeVoe, executive director of Ohio
Advocates for Mental Health.

Studies show defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity are likely to
spend as much, if not more, time confined to a mental hospital and monitored by
the courts if released as if they were sentenced to prison.

If Matt had been convicted, he could have faced 15 years in prison, with an
additional nine years for using a gun.

Matt lived in the maximum security unit of the hospital for 3 1/2 years before
being moved to a less-restrictive, but still locked ward after proving he was no
longer dangerous. He attended individual and group therapy, continued taking
antipsychotic medication and participated in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He
kept a journal, learned about his illness and relapse-prevention techniques, and
talked about the guilt, loss and loneliness he felt.

“What struck me about Matt was how well he was and his degree of concern that he
do what he could to prevent his symptoms from returning,” said Dr. Christopher
Kovell, a former staff psychiatrist at Twin Valley who worked with Matt in his
eventual release from the hospital.

Kovell, who now is medical director for the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug and
Mental Health board, agreed to discuss the case only after Matt signed a consent

“We know that schizophrenia is a treatable illness,” Kovell said. “Matt is one
of those people who has a particularly good response to medication. While not
all schizophrenics experience total remission of symptoms, Matt is one of them.”

While Matt was hospitalized, his family sued Fairfield Family Counseling for $9

A trial judge ruled in favor of the counseling center, but the Ohio Supreme
Court overturned the decision in January 1997, saying Dr. Brown should have
monitored Matt for at least six months and reinstated his medication. The case
ultimately was settled out of court, and Matt’s family is under a gag order not
to discuss details.

The Supreme Court’s decision led lawmakers to clarify that mental-health
professionals must report a patient who could be dangerous.

Matt was released from Twin Valley on June 13, 2000, with a long list of
conditions. He must take his daily medication, as well as mandatory injections
of a long-acting antipsychotic as insurance. He has to check in with his case
manager on weekdays and regularly meet with his psychologist and psychiatrist
for counseling. He can’t buy a gun and is prohibited from going to Fairfield
County, where most of his family still lives, except to visit his parents’
graves when accompanied by a caseworker.

Matt is enjoying the freedom, despite the restrictions.

“It was like going from breathing pollution to breathing fresh air again,” he

He met his girlfriend, Beverly Smith, 43, at a support group for people with
mental illness. (She suffered a fractured brain stem when a drunken driver hit
her at age 17.)

They moved in together two years ago and live with their cat, Otis, and
cockatiels, Denny and Kato.

“Denny has a crippled leg,” Beverly said with a laugh. “He’s one of us.”

Friends describe the couple as caring people.

“You can call Matt and Bev at 4 in the morning and they’ll be there, no angry
looks, no questions asked,” said Claire Higdon, who teaches art for Partners in
Active Living through Socialization.

Matt worked at the agency before being hired on contract at Twin Valley in
October 2004 to help run the hospital’s patient-satisfaction survey.

Matt regrets his past and is optimistic about the future.

He hopes people will stop looking at what he did and see who he is.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my parents and that terrible night,”
he said.

“My parents died because they loved me. I have to find a way to live because I
love them.”


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be sent to:

Treatment Advocacy Center
200 North Glebe Road, Suite 730
Arlington, VA 22203
703-294-6001 (main no.)
703-294-6010 (fax)

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