MWI refuses to admit mentally ill man
The island's psychiatric hospital refused to admit a vulnerable homeless man with mental health problems, Magistrates' Court heard yesterday.
Eric Richardson's lawyer told the court it was a disgrace that the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute had refused to take the 28-year-old, who suffers from schizophrenia and drug abuse.
Simone Smith-Bean, who appeared for Richardson, warned that magistrates in the future would have no choice but to lock him up unless he was given help.
She said: “Because the mental health community has failed to get him help, the courts have consistently been forced to put him in prison as a remedy.
“Even upon release he's still going to be homeless, he's still going to dwell in places where he's not wanted, he's still going to be sent to prison and the cycle will just continue.”
Ms Smith-Bean was speaking as magistrate Tyrone Chin held a hearing to discuss what treatment options were available for Richardson.
Richardson, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty on November 15 to trespassing at a MarketPlace store in Hamilton nine days earlier.
Ms Smith-Bean admitted at that hearing that senior magistrate Juan Wolffe had “no choice” but to sentence Richardson to 45 days in jail.
She added that a prison term was a waste of time because he could not get the treatment he needed behind bars.
Ms Smith-Bean warned that Richardson could find himself in danger if left to fend for himself on the streets.
She said: “He's been attacked, he's been beaten, he's been used.Every time he's released, he's taken advantage of by men on the street to do things for them in exchange for drugs.”
The court heard that Richardson had been sent to Mental Health Court on several occasions in attempt to get help for his psychiatric problems.
However, Ms Smith-Bean said that he often failed to turn up for court dates because his homelessness made it difficult for him to appear as scheduled.
Magistrate Tyrone Chin suggested that Richardson could be sent overseas for treatment.
Defence lawyer Charles Richardson, who was in court on another case, said that a court order could be made to force MWI to take Richardson.
He added that the hospital would have to answer to the court if they still refused to help.
Mr Richardson said: “MWI shouldn't be able to say ‘we don't want him'. I'm appalled that they can stand here and say that.
“If MWI says they don't have room or that it's something structural, then fair enough.
“But their excuse is ‘it's just so inconvenient, it requires so much work'. Who cares?”
Russ Ford, a social worker, told Mr Chin that he had tried to get help for Richardson for “many years”.
He added: “I've been beating this drum for many years and it's unfortunate that we are still in this position.
“But where there is life, there is hope and I am hopeful that something is going to come over the horizon very soon.”
Mr Ford added that he had something in development that could help people like Richardson but did not give details.
Richardson is set to be released from prison on the MarketPlace trespass sentence on December 6.
But he will return to court on December 30 to face another trespass charges at a different MarketPlace store.
Mr Chin adjourned yesterday's hearing to December 5.
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