Thursday, April 30, 2009

US Citizen with Mental Illness Wrongly Deported to Mexico twice, then Honduras, then Guatemala, then . . .

Published: Apr 30, 2009 05:02 AM Modified: Apr 30, 2009 07:19 AM

Feds wrongly deport N.C. citizen

Believing Mark Lyttle was Mexican, they launched him from a Wayne County prison on an odyssey across Latin America.

By Kristin Collins, Staff Writer

Mark Lyttle expected to return home after serving a few months in prison for inappropriately touching a woman's backside.

Instead, he says, the U.S. government deported him to Mexico, Mexican officials deported him to Honduras, and Honduras deported him to Guatemala - even though he is a North Carolina-born U.S. citizen who speaks no Spanish.

U.S. immigration officials confirmed this week that they wrongly deported Lyttle, 31, who his family says is mentally ill and suffers from mild retardation, in December after finding him in a North Carolina prison. He and his lawyer say he spent four months bouncing among Latin American prisons and homeless shelters before ending up this month at a U.S. embassy in Guatemala, where officials confirmed his citizenship.

Lyttle returned to his family on Friday, but only after immigration officials at the Atlanta airport tried to deport him again. He said that, throughout the process, federal agents repeatedly ignored his assurances that he was a U.S. citizen and native of Rowan County, about
125 miles southwest of the Triangle.

"I said, 'All I know is the United States.' I said, 'I was born here in Rowan County,'" said Lyttle, who is now staying with his brother in Kentucky. "They just totally ignored it."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said that before they deported Lyttle, he gave them two sworn statements in which he said he was a Mexican named Jose Thomas. But ICE officials also said Lyttle made other, conflicting sworn statements in which he used his true name and claimed U.S. citizenship.

Agency spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez declined to release copies of the statements.

"It's never the U.S. government's intention to detain an American citizen," Gonzalez said Wednesday. "But clearly in this case, Mr.
Lyttle stated that he was a national of Mexico."

Lyttle's lawyer, Neil Rambana of Tallahassee, Fla., said that Lyttle had no identification but that federal officials could have contacted his family or checked his Social Security number, which he can recite from memory.

"A simple phone call could have helped this person who has a mental condition," Rambana said.

The affair began at Neuse Correctional Institution in Wayne County, where Lyttle was serving a sentence for assault on a female.

Lyttle was adopted at 7 years old after being removed from an abusive home, his family says. He has a dark complexion because his father was part Puerto Rican.

He is bipolar and has suffered from behavioral problems most of his life, his family says, and had recently spent time at Cherry Hospital, a state mental institution. He says he was charged with the crime while living in a halfway house in Jacksonville.

When he was admitted to prison in August, state prison officials say, Lyttle reported being born in Mexico. Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction, said the state has an agreement with ICE that requires the prisons to report all inmates who say they were born in other countries.

An ICE agent interviewed Lyttle on Sept. 2, and Lyttle signed a statement that day saying he was Jose Thomas, a Mexican citizen who entered the U.S. when he was 3 years old, Gonzalez said.

Lyttle said in a telephone interview that he did not claim to be Mexican and had never heard the name Jose Thomas before the ICE agent said it to him. He says he gave ICE agents the names of his mother and two brothers, who are in the Army, and his Social Security number.

As soon as Lyttle's prison term ended in October, ICE took him to a federal detention center in Atlanta, state prison officials said.

There, Lyttle said, officials told him he could spend up to two years in prison if he did not agree to be deported to Mexico. He eventually agreed, and immigration judge William Cassidy ordered him out of the country despite his protests in court that he was a U.S. citizen, Lyttle said.

"I did what I had to to get out of there because there was no other way," Lyttle said.

Just before Christmas, immigration officials flew him to Reynosa, Mexico, removed his handcuffs and sent him off on foot. Lyttle had no food, money or spare clothes. On Dec. 29, he tried to come back over the border at Hidalgo, Texas. He was again deported to Mexico, immigration officials say.

Not a unique case

Jacqueline Stevens, a political science professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, said she has been researching wrongful deportations for the past year. She said she has found at least 34 U.S.
citizens who have been deported since 2003.

Stevens said Lyttle's case is similar to several others in that ICE relied on his statements and never investigated his citizenship. "They could have looked up his information, but they didn't, and that's not just in Mark's case but in all cases," Stevens said.

Gonzalez said federal judges are responsible for determining whether there is enough evidence to deport people. In Lyttle's case, she said, "We carried out the order as issued by a judge."

Lyttle said he didn't know how to contact his family or get copies of his birth certificate.

His mother had moved during his prison term, and he didn't have her address or phone number. His two brothers were in the military, and he couldn't remember where they were stationed.

In Mexico, Lyttle says, he found a homeless shelter and occasional construction work. Eventually, missionaries dropped him in Mexico City, where he hoped to find a U.S. embassy.

Instead, he says, he was picked up by Mexican immigration authorities, who imprisoned him and then sent him on a bus to Honduras. Many Hondurans come illegally to Mexico en route to the United States.

In Honduras, Lyttle says, he was again picked up by immigration authorities and kept in jail for month with gangsters and drunks, given little food and never allowed to shower.

Eventually, he says, he was put on a van that stopped in Nicaragua and then dropped him in a small town in Guatemala, where he spent a night in the street. In the morning, he found a police station, and officers took him to a U.S. embassy in Guatemala City.

Along the way, Lyttle says, he told everyone he came in contact with the names of his mother and two brothers. The embassy officials were the first to try and track them down.

They found his brother, Thomas Lyttle, at his home near Fort Campbell, in Kentucky, last week. Thomas Lyttle said his brother came on the line and said, "Tommy, you've got to get me out of here."

Gonzalez confirmed that Lyttle returned to Atlanta from Guatemala last week. At the airport, customs agents found records of his previous deportations and tried to deport him again, Gonzalez said. He was released after two days, when they confirmed that he was a U.S.

Gonzalez said ICE is correcting Lyttle's record.

A family's long search

When the call came from Guatemala, Lyttle's family had been hunting him for months.

His mother, Jeanne Lyttle, who lives in Georgia, said North Carolina prison officials told her only that Mark had been released. She had no idea he had been deported.

She said Mark spent years in mental hospitals and halfway houses, and never held a full-time job, and she thought that perhaps he had gone off with a woman or ended up imprisoned. She and her sons did Internet searches and called mental hospitals and prisons.

"I can't believe that this could even happen," she said of his deportation. "It's absurd."

Now, the family is consulting with its lawyer and seeking compensation from the government. They say that they spent more than $1,500 to fly Mark back from Guatemala and that Mark didn't get his federal disability payments after being declared an alien.

Mark Lyttle says he is staying with his brother because he is afraid to return to North Carolina.

"I know I can't trust my own country now," he said. "They humiliated me." or 919-829-4881

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jail Inmates at Midyear 2008

Released last month. Click here. Again, from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008

From the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Read report here. Released this month.

I don't have time to summarize information at present, but wanted to provide this to you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dallas County Conviction Integrity Unit in Primetime

Tuesday, April 28th @ 10pm ET/PT, only on Investigation Discovery.
Go inside the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) and see how they work tirelessly to prove that for some convicted people, DNA can hold the key to freedom.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Execution Date Set for Clifton Williams

From Tyler Paper:

Execution Date Set for Man Who Killed Tylerite
Staff Writer

A state district judge set the date of execution Thursday for Clifton Lamar Williams, who has been condemned for killing a 93-year-old Tyler woman in 2005.
Williams, 25, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced Oct. 13, 2006, to death by lethal injection for killing Cecilia Schneider and setting her on fire.
Judge Christi Kennedy, of the 114th District Court, ordered that the defendant be put to death on July 28.

With their verdict, jurors found Williams was not mentally retarded and there were no miti-gating circumstances that warranted a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
Two mental health experts hired by the state said Williams was not mentally retarded.
Defense attorney Melvin Thompson said Thursday that they raised the issue of mental retardation during the trial and they continue to assert that issue.
During the trial, Thompson said evidence showed that the defendant was mentally retarded. A mental health expert who examined Williams in early adulthood for Social Security benefits diagnosed Williams with mental retardation and paranoid schizophrenia. Another expert hired by the defense examined Williams and found him to be mentally retarded.

From Longview News Journal:
"A real problem in our culture in individual freedom is that people have the right not to take their medications," said Paul Andrews, clinical and forensic psychologist in Tyler who has worked with Smith County juvenile treatment programs.
He pointed to the story of Clifton Williams, who was sentenced to death this fall for killing a 93-year-old Tyler woman. Andrews said Williams suffered from schizophrenia and was receiving as many as three visits per week from mental health case workers. Funding cuts later ended those visits.
"He stopped taking his medicine, and 90 days later he killed a person. We have two people dead because of funding cuts," Andrews said. "Not everyone ends up with a crime of homicide, but a lot of people end up with no services or a lack of services ... and they end up in jails, in courts or in prison. I think the greatest way to prevent that would be more money for community health on an outpatient basis."
More than half of Texas prison inmates suffer from some form of substance abuse, Andrews says, and very few are treated in the criminal justice system so they often revert to old behavioral patterns when released from prison.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The New Asylums

After watching the previews of the upcoming Frontline special on "Released," I decided to watch Frontline's "The New Asylums." Then, I bought the DVD ($29.99).

What Really Happens To Mentally Ill Offenders When They Leave Prison

The Released: Frontline Investigates What Really Happens To Mentally Ill Offenders When They Leave Prison
April 28, 2009

Five years ago, FRONTLINE’s groundbreaking film, The New Asylums, went deep inside the Ohio prison system as it struggled to provide care to thousands of mentally ill inmates. This year, FRONTLINE filmmakers Karen O’Connor and Miri Navasky return to Ohio to tell the next chapter in this disturbing story: what happens to mentally ill offenders when they leave prison. The Released—airing on Tuesday, April 28, at 9 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), is an intimate look at the lives of the seriously mentally ill as they struggle to remain free.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Right Prescription for Crime

The Right Prescription for Crime April 16, 2009

By Marc Levin
Mental illness is a key factor in driving up correctional costs in Texas.

There are 42,556 offenders with a mental health diagnosis in prison, 55,276 on probation, and 21,345 on parole. Additionally, some 170,000 mentally ill inmates are admitted into Texas county jails every year.

Mentally ill inmates cost more to house and they stay longer. They are also more likely to recidivate.

Fortunately, there are policies that can reduce both the recidivism and cost associated with the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.

First, counties can divert mentally ill offenders from jail through programs that protect public safety while saving taxpayer dollars.

Bexar County has established a successful three-pronged jail diversion program that can serve as a model for other Texas counties.

First, it employs specially trained law enforcement personnel called Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT). These teams are often able to defuse incidents involving the mentally ill without an arrest. Participants in CIT programs spent on average two more months out of jail than non-diverted individuals, resulting in significant jail cost savings. While the largest Texas metropolitan police departments have CIT personnel, smaller police departments can create a CIT program through cooperatives with other nearby departments.

With Bexar County’s second prong, arrested offenders are screened for mental illness and, if not a threat to public safety, released on a mental health bond or to a treatment center. Screenings are conducted at the Crisis Care Center, a 24-hour facility that provides significantly quicker service at a lower cost than the emergency room. Once stabilized, offenders are released on a mental health bond. Because the wait for a trial date can be as long as six months, outpatient monitoring significantly reduces the utilization of county jail space.

Finally, Bexar County diverts such misdemeanants from jail through an initiative called MANOS, which includes intensive case management that consists of outpatient medication management and counseling.

Of the 371 offenders admitted to the MANOS Program, only 6.2 percent were re-incarcerated. This compares to a re-incarceration rate of 67 percent for mentally ill offenders without the intensive case management services offered by the jail diversion program.

Savings from Bexar County’s jail diversion program are estimated at between $3.8 million and $5.0 million per year.

The state can also take steps to address the impact of mental illness on the criminal justice system. About 2,500 probationers and 800 parolees participate in a state-funded initiative involving intensive case management and a smaller caseload with a specially trained officer.

The three-year re-incarceration rate is 15.1 percent for participating probationers is and 16.0 percent for parolees. In contrast, there is a 52 percent re-incarceration rate for mentally ill probationers and parolees who do not receive treatment. Increasing the number of probationers and parolees in this program could more than pay for itself through lower recidivism.

Another way to address mental illness in the criminal justice system is through mental health courts. Several Texas counties -- including Bexar, El Paso, Tarrant, and Dallas -- have established mental health courts in which a judge orders the defendant to obtain treatment and supervises his progress. A RAND Institute study found significant cost savings from mental health courts due to lower jail utilization.

Finally, defendants who are mentally incompetent to stand trial can be diverted from a state hospital. In 2008, the state launched outpatient competency restoration pilot programs. Taking Travis, Tarrant, Bexar, and Dallas Counties together, some 427 offenders are projected to be served in 2009. The total cost of these four programs is $2.16 million compared with the state hospital cost of $14.95 million based on an average cost of $35,000 per offender. Accordingly, it makes sense to expand these pilot programs to additional sites.

Mentally ill offenders will always pose a substantial challenge in the criminal justice system. But through initiatives like these, we can achieve our goals of enhanced public safety and reduced costs to taxpayers.

Marc A. Levin is Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

1 IN 31

Explosive growth in the number of people on probation or parole has propelled the population of the American corrections system to more than 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 U.S. adults, according to a report released by the Pew Center on the States. The vast majority of these offenders live in the community, yet new data in the report finds that nearly 90 percent of state corrections dollars are spent on prisons. One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections examines the scale and cost of prison, jail, probation and parole in each of the 50 states, and provides a blueprint for states to cut both crime and spending by reallocating prison expenses to fund stronger supervision of the large number of offenders in the community.


Court to examine Texas killer who wants to die

Found on
HOUSTON (AP) - A federal appeals court is sending the case of a condemned Texas inmate back to a lower court to see if the prisoner is mentally competent to decide he wants to die for the slaying of an 84-year-old East Texas woman nine years ago.

Danielle Simpson, 29, has told the courts he's tired of being locked up and if he can't be free he wants to die. The federal court issued its ruling Monday.

Simpson was condemned for the 2000 slaying of Geraldine Davidson, a former Palestine school teacher and church organist.

Davidson was abducted from her home during a burglary, was bound and gagged, driven around in the trunk of her car and then beaten and dumped into the Neches River. She was wrapped in duct tape and had cinder blocks tied to her ankles.

One Year Evaluation Findings for the Crisis Services Redesign

Read the report here.

In 2007, the 80th Texas Legislature appropriated $82 million to the Department of State Health
Services (DSHS) to address problems in the state’s mental health and substance abuse crisis service
delivery system. Texas A&M University was selected to serve as an independent, external evaluation
team to examine the impact of Crisis Service Redesign (CSR). This report contains the initial
evaluation findings regarding the first year of CSR.
Utilizing a combination of visits to selected Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHAs), interviews with
law enforcement officers, judges, and emergency room staff, statewide online surveys of key
stakeholder groups, and satisfaction surveys of users of CSR-funded services, the evaluation team
has generated 6 findings regarding the impact of CSR.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

TDCJ Lobby Day

From Tx Justice Dot Org:

Thursday April 16, 2009 Lobby Day

There is a TDCJ Lobby day at the Texas Capitol building April 16, 2009 at 9 AM. Meet on the East steps of the Capitol (that is the side of the Capitol near San Jacinto St). From Huntsville meet at 5 AM next to the TDCJ HR Headquarters building next to Shipleys Donuts on Hwy 30 W. From here we will leave to Austin. Vans and car pooling available. The next day our payraise will be voted on the House floor, so this date is important.

May 14 march at the Texas Capitol.

TDCJ employees will meet at 9 AM on May 14, 2009 at 1106 Lavaca St, Austin, TX 78701 (across from the Governor Mansion at Lavaca & 11th St.) From Huntsville meet at 5 AM next to the TDCJ HR Headquarters building next to Shipleys Donuts on Hwy 30 W. From here we will leave to Austin. Vans and car pooling available.

All TDCJ employees should attend. Thursday's Corrections meeting had a good showing of Industry and Maintenance employees. They made a good impression on the Corrections Committee.

Friday, April 10, 2009

TYC Mental Health - Loophole prevents TCOOMMI eligibility


Some youthful offenders with mental problems are stuck in the Texas Youth Commission because of a loophole in state law. TYC video. Filed by R.G. Ratcliffe April 8, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mental Illness and Homelessness: Coming to a Town Near You!

From Dallas Morning News:
The Dallas Morning News is taking a closer look at the struggles of helping the chronically homeless. This article is the first in a series this year examining the costs of inadequate treatment and exploring possible solutions. The project received support from The Carter Center, which offers fellowships in mental health journalism.

The system designed to help – psychiatric hospitals, drug and alcohol treatment centers, mental health clinics and housing programs – isn't working for most of them. Many are reluctant to get help, but even if they're willing, they face a lack of available treatment beds and inadequate follow-up care.

These failures not only perpetuate homelessness but end up costing taxpayers millions for law enforcement, emergency care and other expenses that could be avoided.

"The system is just not there for them," said Ron Cowart, supervisor of the city's Crisis Homeless Outreach Unit, which has a team that focuses on the most difficult cases on the streets. "I look at many of these [homeless] encampments as being monuments of our failure to properly address the mentally ill homeless."

Dallas' new homeless assistance center, The Bridge, cost $21 million to build and another $7 million a year to operate. Terrell State Hospital, which handles the most extreme psychiatric crises, spent $1.7 million last year treating 132 homeless people. Dallas County spends about $11 million a year keeping an average of 566 homeless people per day in jail. And Dallas police have spent nearly $300,000 so far this year making 3,191 arrests downtown for panhandling, sleeping in public and public intoxication.

Read the rest here.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that my town's newspaper, the Tyler Morning Telegraph, would dare cover such topics, because it would mean admitting to having a homeless population and a population with mental illness.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Houston man allegedly tried to beat demon from son

Houston man allegedly tried to beat demon from son
By JUAN A. LOZANO Associated Press Writer © 2009 The Associated Press
April 6, 2009, 2:45PM
HOUSTON — A man accused of viciously beating his 3-year-old son claims he wasn't hitting the boy but trying to drive a demon out of the child's body, authorities said Monday.

Relatives say Jacky Tran, who is being held in the Harris County Jail on a $100,000 bond after being charged with felony injury to a child, believed he was an angel trying to save his son.

"He told me that he thinks he's an angel right now," Tran's cousin-in-law Thuba To said Monday, the day after speaking with him in jail. "He told me the whole family are angels. The boy is an angel but evil took his body and that's the reason why he tried to take the evil out of his body. That's what he thought."

To said she and other family members are shocked the 35-year-old devout Buddhist could have done this and believe he has serious mental problems.

Jacky Tran made a brief court appearance Monday. His attorney, Jerome Godinich, did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press.

The boy's mother, Phung Tran, 36, has been charged with felony injury to a child and is in the county jail on a $30,000 bond. She was set to appear in court Tuesday. Court records did not list an attorney for her.

Lt. John Legg, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Department, said a deputy was called to the Tran home Saturday evening in response to an alarm.

The deputy found all the home's windows were open and music was blaring from inside. A man, later identified as Tran, was seen by the deputy in a second-floor bedroom.

"He observed (Tran) yelling and striking downward at something," Legg said. "There was a break in the music and the deputy then heard a child screaming."

Before the deputy and other officers could force their way into the home, Tran came downstairs and was arrested. Inside, deputies found Phung Tran tending to the boy, whose face and head had been "seriously pummeled," Legg said.

The boy's head was swollen to the point where his eyes could barely open, said Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Tran "was saying, 'I wasn't beating my son. I was beating the demon out of him.' He was apparently repeating that," Legg said.

The boy, who was still hospitalized Monday, was expected to survive, officials said.

Legg said Jacky Tran had apparently been experiencing a change in mood and behavior over the past week. Deputies found furniture from inside the home piled in the front and back yards.

To said she had not spoken with Jacky Tran in about a week but he had never acted strangely before.

"He's a very nice person, very responsible with his family," she said.

Child Protective Services was given custody by a judge on Monday of the boy and his 6-year-old sister, who was in the home on Saturday but wasn't injured, said CPS spokeswoman Gwen Carter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Murder Suspect Attempted to Get Help a Few Days Prior to Killing Actor

Murder suspect had been out of prison three months before killing local actor, police say
Seth Tatum turned himself in to authorities a day later, police say
By Isadora Vail, Claire Osborn
Saturday, April 04, 2009

After beating his mother's roommate with a garden tool at their South Austin home Wednesday, Seth Tatum walked about three miles to the home of an Austin actor whom he had never met and killed him, according to an arrest affidavit.

Tatum, who has been out of prison for about three months, beat Carl Drake and killed 67-year-old Louis Byron Perryman, police said Friday.

On Thursday, Tatum, 26, drove Perryman's car to the Travis County Courthouse and surrendered to authorities, homicide Detective Joseph Chacon said.

"I just don't know what happened," said Tatum's mother, Joan. "He's sweet, and everybody loved him and supported him and thought he was going to be OK. At least he turned himself in."

Tatum has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms, his mother said. He tried to get treatment at a psychiatric hospital Tuesday night, she said.

Perryman was a character actor who enjoyed a run of bit parts, including in the films "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2," "Poltergeist" and "The Blues Brothers" and in television's "Walker, Texas Ranger."

During the South by Southwest Film Festival last month, Perryman joined longtime creative collaborator and friend Tobe Hooper at a special screening of their movie "Eggshells," which was made in Austin in 1969 and was recently restored.

"It's lovely that they were able to reunite for such a special event before this tragedy," said Rebecca Campbell, director of the Austin Film Society.

On Wednesday, police said, Tatum fractured Drake's skull and cut his hands and head with a pair of garden shears. Drake was taken to University Medical Center at Brackenridge, where he was treated and released, police said.

Police said Tatum ran from the house in the 6000 block of Glen Meadow Drive when his mother called 911.

Tatum ended up at Perryman's home in the 1100 block of Darvone Circle, Chacon said. Tatum and Perryman did not know each other, he said.

Chacon said Tatum beat Perryman with a sharp object.

Tatum told detectives at the courthouse that he had beaten Drake and killed Perryman, Chacon said.

Joan Tatum said her son grew up in Austin, attended Porter Middle School and then got his General Educational Development certificate at a Texas Youth Commission facility in Brownwood.

After he left the commission at about age 19, he held a variety of jobs, including construction, rockwork and at several moving companies, Joan Tatum said.

Seth Tatum spent three years in prison for aggravated robbery, according to police, and was released from a Huntsville prison this year.

Joan Tatum said her son had come home this week after spending a month in a small town in Oklahoma with relatives.

She said that he wanted to work as a tattoo artist but that there were no jobs in tattooing in the town.

He had stopped taking his medications about a month ago because he didn't think they were helping him, she said.

On Tuesday, Seth Tatum asked his mother to take him to Seton Shoal Creek Hospital to see if she could get him admitted, Joan Tatum said.

"They wanted $3,600 for the first three days, and I don't have that kind of money, so we left," she said. "He is 26 and doesn't have insurance anymore."

In a statement, the Seton Family of Hospitals said, "It is our policy to let all of our patients know the cost of daily charges and doctor fees.

"If they do not have insurance or the means to cover those costs, we ask if they can assist in the payment of those charges."

The statement said Seton has provided about a half-million dollars in charity and free care for patients in the past year.

Tatum remained in the Travis County Jail on Friday with bail set at $1 million.

He has been charged with capital murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He could receive the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

Additional material from staff writer Chris Garcia.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Drug Courts: A Review of the Evidence

The Sentencing Project is pleased to announce the publication of a new report, Drug Courts: A Review of the Evidence, that assesses the impact of the drug court movement.

Since their introduction in 1989, drug courts have received a significant amount of attention by practitioners, policymakers, and the general public. Originally conceived as an alternative to incarceration for persons convicted of low-level drug offenses, there are now more than 1,600 drug courts nationally, covering all 50 states. Many of these programs have broadened their eligibility requirements to grant more individuals access to treatment rather than incarceration. In the two decades since their launch, a substantial body of literature has been established evaluating drug court efficacy in regard to reducing recidivism and criminal justice costs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

9 People - 2,678 ER Visits - $3 Million

You've heard me say it before! This is, yet, more evidence that we live in a crisis driven society! The reader's initial response may be to blame these 9 people, but what would you do if you had no money? Would you go to the emergency room and wait 4-8 hours for care? Would you go to the indigent care clinic / mental health clinic and wait 6-12 months for care? If it makes you feel better, go ahead and blame the infamous 9, and I would agree that they share in that blame. Or, you can choose to take responsibility and commit to a change.

This $3 million breaks down to a little over $55,000 per person per year. If you're footing the bill (and you are) you could provide room & board, most meds, fair health care (preventative and maintenance) for around $14,000 per year (probably less). Tell your legislator what you think. I would challange the local Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams to make efforts to document the costs of the frequent users of crisis services.

Austin ER's got 2,678 visits from 9 people over 6 years
Task force seeking ways to divert non-emergencies away from emergency rooms.

By Mary Ann Roser


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In the past six years, eight people from Austin and one from Luling racked up 2,678 emergency room visits in Central Texas, costing hospitals, taxpayers and others $3 million, according to a report from a nonprofit made up of hospitals and other providers that care for the uninsured and low-income Central Texans.

One of the nine spent more than a third of last year in the ER: 145 days. That same patient totaled 554 ER visits from 2003 through 2008.

"We looked at frequent users of emergency departments ... and that's the extreme," said Ann Kitchen, executive director of the Integrated Care Collaboration, the group that presented the report last week to the Travis County Healthcare District board. "What we're really trying to do is find out who's using our emergency rooms ... and find solutions."

The health district, one of 26 members of the ICC, has long been concerned about overuse and crowding of ERs, a problem that has hit hospitals around the country. (view the rest here)