People with mental illness don’t belong in jail
Quinn Glover, 56, is trapped in more ways than one.
His mental illness is a straitjacket that’s left him with the cognitive skills of a 5-year-old.
Arrested for grabbing the groin of a personal care attendant last month, Mr. Glover landed behind bars.
When he finally gets out of the Allegheny County Jail, his only prospect is a return to a mental health treatment system that’s done little for years but bat him around.
His odyssey is additional evidence of the state’s need to establish more inpatient beds for people with severe mental illness and to beef up the outpatient treatment system for those trying to make it in community settings.
The state closed Mayview State Hospital in December 2008 after relocating about 300 residents, including Mr. Glover, who had lived there for more than 25 years.
The closure of the South Fayette facility was part of a nationwide movement aimed at treating the mentally ill in less restrictive settings.
It also was a cost-cutting measure; it’s less expensive to provide community-based treatment than to operate sprawling institutions.
However, the state never found appropriate homes for some of those who were relocated and failed to pump ample resources into the outpatient treatment system that was supposed to shoulder much of Mayview’s work.
Besides those moved out of Mayview, the decision to close the hospital affects everyone in its former service area — Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties — who may need intensive psychiatric care one day.
Rather than build up community programs for the long haul, the state did the opposite.
It cut millions of dollars in mental health funding during the 2012-13 fiscal year.
As treatment providers scaled back operations, some community hospitals and jails reported that the state effectively shifted some of Mayview’s caseload to them.
While some of those relocated from Mayview have done well, others have not.
One was murdered. Another pleaded no contest to raping a woman at the personal care home where both lived. Mr. Glover, who suffered irreparable damage at 14 from a blood clot on his brain, also has struggled.
He’s been in various facilities since leaving Mayview, most recently a personal care home in Monroeville. He needs more care than it provided.
The jail also has had a difficult time coping with him.
Because of inappropriate and threatening behavior, officials moved him from a medical unit to a psychiatric unit where inmates spend most of their time in isolation.
His condition there deteriorated, and after the American Civil Liberties Union intervened, a federal judge ordered him returned to the medical unit pending his release to a treatment program.
But officials couldn’t immediately find one. That’s shocking and unacceptable.
More inpatient beds, in hospitals or community settings, are needed for those who are severely and persistently ill.
Also needed are a stronger safety net for those receiving outpatient treatment, lest they get sicker and require higher levels of care, and better support for families who struggle with loved ones’ illnesses.
Nearly a decade after the closing of Mayview, the state’s promise to remake mental health care in southwestern Pennsylvania remains unfulfilled.
This man’s odyssey is additional evidence of the state’s need to establish more inpatient beds for people with severe mental illness and to beef up the outpatient treatment system for those trying to make it in community settings.