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Court ruling preserves services for mentally ill inmates after prison release

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URL: http://www.urbanjustice.org

Text of April 19 Urban Justice press release

Court Denies City's Attempt to Cut Most Severely Mentally Ill Inmates Out of Brad H. Settlement

Hundreds of Hospital Prison Ward inmates to Receive Help with Treatment, Housing Prior to Release

Over two years ago, the City settled Brad H. v. City of New York and agreed to stop discharging inmates with mental illness at Queens Plaza in the middle of the night with no medication and nothing but $1.50 and a Metrocard. Under the settlement, the 25,000 people who receive treatment for mental illness in the city each year are entitled to services upon release, such as continued mental health care, medications and prescriptions, substance abuse treatment, case management, public benefits including Medicaid and Public Assistance, housing, and transportation.

Since signing the settlement, the City has refused to provide any discharge planning services in the psychiatric detention wards at Bellevue, Kings County, and Elmhurst Hospitals. People with psychiatric disabilities who are so severely ill as to need treatment in a hospital are taken to these psychiatric detention wards operated by the Department of Correction and New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.

The Court rejected the City's argument that these inmates are not covered by the settlement stating, "Those units contain inmates treated for psychological problems who are probably most in need of discharge planning due to their serious functional impairments. To interpret the agreement otherwise would prevent these most needy individuals from securing discharge planning that they particularly require, and is inconsistent with the overall purpose of the stipulation of settlement which is to give those inmates the discharge planning which they are entitled to receive and as a consequence reduce crime,"

"I am frustrated that the City has focused its energy on finding ways to avoid providing services to people who are most in need of assistance connecting with treatment, medication, benefits, and housing," states Jennifer Parish, Director of Criminal Justice Advocacy at the Urban Justice Center, one of the organizations that filed the lawsuit. "If the City would put its energy into ensuring that inmates with mental illness have the treatment and services they need instead of litigation, everyone would be better served."

"It is long past time for the City to turn ever a new leaf For everybody's sake, it needs to stop fighting its obligation to provide discharge planning so that inmates who are mentally ill can continue their treatment after they are released from jail. Nobody wins when the City resists or fails," says John A. C'rresham, Senior Litigation Counsel at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which is also part of the team representing the inmates. "We all need our officials to take to heart a mission of decency and common sense. This will benefit everyone, reduce illness and suffering, and save money by avoiding re-arrests and re-hospitalizations."

Press Contact: Jennifer J. Parish, Director of Criminal Justice Advocacy, Urban Justice Center Office: (646) 602-5644 Cell: (646) 872-1686 Email: jparish@urbanjustice.org John A. Gresham, Senior Litigation Counsel, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Office: (212) 244-4664 ext. 308 Email: lgresham@nylpi.org

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