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Tragedies Underscore Crisis in U.S. Public Mental Health System: National Advocacy Organization Demands Reforms
Date:12/2/2008

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the wake of the deaths of two persons in public psychiatric institutions - highlighting a pattern of abuse and neglect of those who have psychiatric disabilities - a national coalition of such individuals is calling on the incoming Obama administration and the nation's top mental health officials to institute widespread, substantive reforms in America's mental health treatment system. These would include raising standards and regulatory expectations, and identifying and funding pilot programs to demonstrate best practices in psychiatric emergency, inpatient and community-based care.

The death of Steven Sabock, a 50-year-old man diagnosed with bipolar disorder who died on April 29 in a North Carolina state psychiatric institution after he had choked on medication - while, nearby, hospital employees, ignoring his plight, entertained themselves with cards and TV - is just one example of the dangerous dysfunction of the public mental health system, said Dan Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations (NCMHCSO).

"The death of Steven Sabock at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, N.C., which made headlines last week, is only one tragedy in the tragic history of the American public mental health system - a system that the 2003 report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health described as 'in shambles,'" said Fisher, a Commission member. "The Obama administration should reconstitute the Commission with a focus on specific outcomes, such as improving psychiatric emergency care."

After Sabock's death, three hospital employees were dismissed and five others were suspended for less than a week. However, no one has been criminally charged.

Sabock's death is not an isolated incident. In June 2008, Esmin Green, who had been involuntarily committed, collapsed in the psychiatri
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SOURCE National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations
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