Monday, December 31, 2007

How Many More Of These Do We Have To Have?

Before Americans recognize what a terrible mistake deinstitutionalization was? From December 31, 2007 WBIR channel 10:

The father of the 25-year-old shot to death by Knoxville Police Sunday night says he's sure officers did what they had to do.
Instead of blaming officers, Charles Rudd of Sevierville feels his son David's death is the result of a lack of affordable - or available - mental health care.

He says David suffered from severe bipolar disorder, as well as paranoid schizophrenia. He had been living on the streets for the past five years.

Charles Rudd and his wife Diana adopted David as a 10-month-old baby. They knew David's biological family had a strong history of mental illness, but hoped their son wouldn't fall victim.

They say that until age 13, David was a happy, healthy child who made excellent grades in advanced classes and enjoyed art. But in early adolescence, symptoms began appearing. David started hearing voices, and by young adulthood, David Rudd was severely afflicted with major mental health problems.

His family says they worked tirelessly over the years to get David the mental health treatment he needed. They also encouraged him to take his prescribed medication, which David resisted.

"He always said it made him feel tired and kind of out of it," Charles Rudd says. "We tried to make him take it."

The family, originally from Maryville, moved to Ohio for a period, and it was there David first spent three months in a mental health facility. He was in middle school, and the struggle to find and pay for the type of care their son needed has been ongoing for the Rudd family ever since

"As long as your mental insurance lasts, you have a spot," Charles Rudd says. "It's 'Here's the door' after that.'"

After the family moved back to East Tennessee in 1999, David Rudd was committed to Peninsula Hospital when he was 18 years-old, but only for three days. Two years ago, David spent another three days at Lakeshore Hospital.

"Three days," his father says. "I guess he was suddenly 'cured' and shown the door. It
takes months to get on medications, not days.

"We've tried. We had him in treatment in Sevierville with a psychiatrist within the last year," says Charles Rudd, adding that David also had outpatient treatment again at Peninsula.

According to his father, David refused to stay in shelters or motels, for the same reason he couldn't hold a job.

"He had 10 jobs in seven years in Sevierville," Charles Rudd explains. "None lasted more than two weeks."

Rudd says David couldn't keep a job or stay in one place because he had "bizarre thoughts that weren't real." He often thought people were talking about him behind his back.

"Sometimes, he thought there'd be a man that would change into a woman," Charles says, struggling to explain his son's condition.

Charles Rudd believes his son likely was the man who shot two people at a Knoxville Hooters restaurant, killing one of them. He says David probably went to Hooters Friday night to drink beer and warm up for a few hours. He says David often stayed along the railroad tracks that ran through that area of West Knoxville.

The senior Rudd says he feels terrible for the families of the victims hurt and killed at Hooters early Saturday morning.

Charles' brother in Florida had seen a news story about the shooting on TV and called. Both say they "just knew" from the suspect description that it was David. Family members alerted police to their concerns, telling them what area of town they were likely to find their suspect.

"I just feel terrible for the families involved with this," Charles Rudd says. "I don't know how they feel, but I have a pretty good idea."

Rudd says he always thought he would hear that something happened to his son.

"I kept expecting a phone call that he'd be either hurt or killed on the street," Rudd says. "I couldn't make him seek help. Once they turn 18, it's very difficult."

Rudd says his son was home for the holidays, but he had a "bad episode." David apparently thought someone had poisoned his food and the situation escalated. He showed his father a gun, and his father told him he would have to leave.

Rudd says he knew his son had "a couple starter guns," but he says he had no idea before this that his son had a real firearm. Rudd says he figured his son picked it up on the street.

"I told him he couldn't come back to the house because I could tell he was getting out of control," Charles says.

The Rudds called the police to tell them their son had a gun, but by the time authorities arrived, David Rudd was gone.
I'm guessing that the three days wasn't determined by insurance, but by how long someone can be held without a finding of dangerousness. I can't quite figure out from reading Tennessee's mental health laws how long someone can be held against their will, but I do notice that a lot of stuff has to happen in intervals of 72 hours (which is three days).

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