New Jersey Forced To Halt Illegal Detention Of Psychiatric Patients

The Bazelon Mental Health Center, based in Washington, D.C., and Disability Rights New Jersey yesterday announced a landmark settlement with the State of New Jersey under which approximately 300 psychiatric patients in state psychiatric facilities will be released from those facilities and be provided with housing and services in the community. These people are already medically cleared to leave state hospitals–to be uncommitted in essence–but since the state couldn’t find housing for them in their communities (or didn’t want to find them housing), they were being held for a year and longer at state psych facilities in a kind of weird and cruel legal limbo.

Under the US Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead ruling, patients who are stable and deemed able to leave state psychiatric care, and who want to live in the community, are supposed to be able to leave the facilities with the state obligated to provide them community-based housing and supports. New Jersey was in violation of Olmstead and the above-mentioned groups sued the state.

I congratulate the people at Bazelon and Disability Rights New Jersey for striking an important blow for the freedom and decent treatment of the mentally ill.

The reality is that this kind of situation exists all across America and it is disgusting and inhumane. I wrote about a similar group of patients caught in the same net in Washington State in Seattle Weekly in 2004.

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