No quick fix for mentally ill who reject medication
By Graham Kates
In April, psychiatric patients in two separate instances stabbed police officers in Riverdale and Harlem.
The incidents raised questions about the process by which medication decisions are made for mentally ill patients.
The decision to discharge a patient from a hospital is the result of a complicated process that can often lead to unpredictable results, according to psychiatric care experts. Doctors, family members and patients are all supposed to be part of the decision-making process, but ultimately acceptance of medication is a patient’s choice.
Kendra’s Law — named for 32-year-old Kendra Webdale, who was killed when a mentally ill man pushed her in front of a subway train — grants judges the authority to order people who meet certain criteria to regularly undergo psychiatric treatment, but it does not mandate medication.
Bennedy Abreu’s family members said they were worried a year before the April 8 incident that left 50th Precinct Officer William Fair with a puncture wound to his neck and a slash across his face and Officer Phillip White with a wounded wrist. They said they became concerned in April 2011, when Mr. Abreu stopped receiving court-ordered treatment for his illness.
When his mother, Carmen Abreu, checked him in at North Central Bronx Hospital in January, she said she hoped he would stay there for a long time, but he was released 10 days later.
“Before he left we asked the psychiatrist, ‘Are you sure he’s ready to leave?’ And she said, ‘We can’t keep him here.’ And then of course I wasn’t going to leave him on the street, so he came back home,” Ms. Abreu said.
Although representatives of North Central Bronx Hospital are not allowed to comment on individual cases because of doctor-patient confidentiality rules, Hanna Nelson, a hospital spokesperson explained the facility’s approach to psychiatric care.