Dirty Little Secrets

October 1, 2015 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Foster Care, Politics and Funding, Public Policy, The States by Mike Tikkanen

birdwatching in MazatlanWill Minnesota Sheriff’s sue Counties over failure (Star Tribune) to provide services to mentally unhealthy inmates?  Is the Hennepin County Commissioner “failing in her public duty and violating a judge’s order”?

Senator Al Franken & and Sheriff Rich Stanek call the failure of leaving mentally unhealthy inmates to rot in jail cells “our dirty little secret”.  I applaud Franken and Stanek for their candor.

State law requires that inmates in need of mental health services get those services within 48 hours, but there are not enough beds to make this happen (Hennepin County Medical Center alone sees 800-1000 emergency psych visits each month).

Do six year old state wards (foster children) not deserve the same legal protections as adults in this state?

If so, can social workers and foster parents sue the County for failure to provide mental health services to state ward children that don’t receive the mental health services they need?

When six year old Kendrea Johnson hung herself with her jump rope and left her suicide note, was she receiving the mental health services she needed?  Her social worker was not aware that the child was seeing a therapist (she was).

In my experience as a Hennepin County guardian ad-Litem, I’ve watched too many children pass through our Child Protection system without anywhere near the mental health help they needed.

A second dirty little secret for policy makers to address is the drugging of very young State Ward children and an inadequate approach to their mental health problems.

Prozac and other psychotropic medications are so much cheaper than required therapy that it has been institutionalized as a primary response to traumatized children instead of adequate therapy and few of the people dealing with abused and neglected children have the proper training to deal with it effectively.

The recent reading of the report by Dee Wilson of the Casey Foundation’s 8 month study of MN Child Protection to Hennepin County Commissioners, Dee pointed out the weakness of mental health services in this state and directly addressed St Joe’s Home For Children where volunteer and other staff grossly are under-trained to handle the traumatized children they see every day.

St Joe’s is the key facility for traumatized Hennepin County State Ward children.

Most other industrialized nations require even daycare workers to have mental health education and pay them accordingly.  Our privatized shelters and group homes don’t.

We pay daycare workers about what we pay food service workers (the lowest paid people in the nation) and there are almost no requirements for the job.

Reading about six and ten-year olds on Prozac is way different than talking with them as a guardian ad-Litem.  A very young boy tugged on my sleeve playing miniature golf and asked me “when will I be normal?”  He hated Ritalin (a cocaine derivative banned in Sweden in the 60’s because suicides).

During my video interview with Don Samuels (past Minneapolis Mayoral candidate) he described his experience as a County Commissioner when he received a call from a teacher desperate for help to save a five year old boy trying to kill himself in her classroom.  My first visit to a four year old state ward girl was at the suicide ward of Fairview Hospital.   I’ve written about the seven year old foster boy (Gabriel Myers) who hung himself and left a note about how he hated Prozac.

With years of working with children in Child Protection and my own personal experience, I know what the label on psychotropic medications warning about suicidal ideation means that you might try and kill yourself (it is very real and hard to describe fully formed thoughts of suicide being visited upon you during waking hours).

There is a strong argument that it should be a criminal act to force children (and State Ward children are forced) to use these drugs without adequate therapy.

The numbers of very young children with suicidal and self-harming behaviors are huge and growing.

There is no upside to not treating children (or anyone else) in need of mental health services.  Besides being just an awful example of how an uncaring community acts towards it’s youngest and most vulnerable.

These children become juveniles* and then adults with mental health problems – many of them unable to cope with day to day life and State Wards forever.

DR Bruce Perry ends his public talks with the statement that “25% of Americans will be special needs people by the end of this generation if these problems are not addressed”.  This is an 8 year old statement.  Look around you – read the paper and tell me that this isn’t happening.

Half of the 50 children I have worked with as a guardian ad-Litem were sexually molested.  All of the 50 children I worked with were traumatized and suffered what is defined by the World Health Organization as Torture (extended exposure to violence and deprivation).

Only a few of the children I worked with received anywhere near the help they needed to develop coping skills and heal from their traumas.

Who among our political leaders will step up and start the discussion about the County failing mentally unhealthy inmates of the Child Protection system?

The discussion is simply about the difference between NEEDS & WANTS when allocating tax dollars.

It was a very bad policy decisions that cost a billion dollars by refusing to fund the 5 million dollars (a NEED not a WANT) in DOT requested maintenance of the 35W Bridge after 2 separate federal inspections and our State’s own DOT engineers determined the bridge unsafe (placing our bridge in the lowest 4% of all 70,000 bridges in the U.S.)

The billion dollar cost to this state for the 35W bridge collapse does not include the immense suffering of all the families who lost their loved ones and quality of life because our policy makers refused the five million dollar maintenance funding  requested by DOT engineers prior to its collapse.

5 million dollars is one half of one percent of the billion dollars the bridge collapse cost us because of poor decision making by our policy makers.

Stadiums** and transit are WANTS and they are fine, but do not mistake stadiums and transit as things that make for a healthy citizenry.

Policy makers have spent multiple billions of our tax dollars for the unnecessary bridge collapse, wanted but not needed mass transit and stadiums (Wants) while ignoring the very serious (NEEDS) of mental health services to children, juveniles and adults.

Points to ponder;

Is this misguided public policy or misfeasance/nonfeasance?

If the Sheriff’s sue the County for failing to provide mental health services the State Wards in their custody, will foster parents and others with custody of child State Wards have the same right to pursue legal remedies for the same reasons?



*Think Michael Swanson & Jeff Weise

**How do you get taxpayers to chip in $500 million on a more than $1 billion stadium when only one city, Indianapolis ($620 million), has ever paid that much? Tell them you’ll move their 54-year-old NFL franchise to Los Angeles.

Minneapolis will pay $678 million over its 30-year payment plan once interest, operations and construction costs are factored in. 


County jails struggling with mentally ill inmates left to languish

The state says it doesn’t have enough beds; meanwhile, sheriffs consider legal recourse.

Now Hennepin County and the state sheriffs’ association are considering legal options to force state officials to explain in court why they can’t find beds for often violent inmates who could pose a risk to themselves or others without proper treatment and medical supervision.

“We are doing the best we can to get patients into beds as quickly as we can,” said DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson on Tuesday. “But only when it’s safe for inmates and other patients. Even if it means breaking the 48-hour rule, I have to think about patient and staff safety.”

Jim Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, said: “The DHS commissioner is telling us they no longer can comply with the law, and that leaves us with an interesting dilemma. Do we hold inmates illegally in jail, or is the commissioner failing in her public duty and violating a judge’s order? The victim in all this is the person with mental illness sitting in jail.”

State officials have been warning since 2013 that they were running out of space to house mentally ill inmates and had mounting concerns over safety and staffing. In late April, Jesson took the rare step of informing state sheriffs they would start limiting admissions of jail inmates to Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center, the state’s second-largest psychiatric hospital. “Our medical director informs me that meeting the 48-hour mandate would result in an egregious compromise of safety,” she wrote in her letter.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said Tuesday that he plans to meet with the County Board this week to pursue a legal strategy to resolve why the DHS can violate the 48-hour rule, which became law in July 2013. He said the county could sue the agency or seek an order requiring a DHS representative to explain to a judge that they can’t fulfill the law…….

entire article here;http://www.startribune.com/county-jails-struggling-with-mentally-ill-inmates-left-to-languish/315137451/


A term used in Tort Law to describe an act that is legal but performed improperly.

Generally, a civil defendant will be liable for misfeasance if the defendant owed a duty of care toward the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty of care by improperly performing a legal act, and the improper performance resulted inharm to the plaintiff.

For example, assume that a janitor is cleaning a restroom in a restaurant. If he leaves the floor wet, he or his employer could be liable for any injuries resulting from the wet floor. This is because the janitor owed a duty of care towardusers of the restroom, and he breached that duty by leaving the floor wet.

In theory, misfeasance is distinct from NonfeasanceNonfeasance is a term that describes a failure to act that results in harm to another party. Misfeasance, by contrast, describes some affirmative act that, though legal, causes harm.In practice, the distinction is confusing and uninstructive. Courts often have difficulty determining whether harm resulted from a failure to act or from an act that was improperly performed.

To illustrate, consider the example of the wet bathroom floor. One court could call a resulting injury the product of misfeasance by focusing on the wetness of the floor. The washing of the floor was legal, but the act of leaving the floor wetwas improper. Another court could call a resulting injury the product of nonfeasance by focusing on the janitor’s failure to post a warning sign……..


The intentional failure to perform a required duty or obligation.

Nonfeasance is a term used in Tort Law to describe inaction that allows or results in harm to a person or to property. An act of nonfeasance can result in liability if (1) the actor owed a duty of care toward the injured person, (2) the actorfailed to act on that duty, and (3) the failure to act resulted in injury.

Originally the failure to take affirmative steps to prevent harm did not create liability, and this rule was absolute. Over the years courts have recognized a number of situations in which a person who does not create a dangerous situationmust nevertheless act to prevent harm.

Generally a person will not be held liable for a failure to act unless he or she had a preexisting relationship with the injured person. For example, if a bystander sees a stranger drowning and does not attempt a rescue, he cannot be liablefor nonfeasance because he had no preexisting relationship with the drowning person. The bystander would not be liable for the drowning even if a rescue would have posed no risk to him.

However, if the victim is drowning in a public pool and the bystander is a lifeguard employed by the city, and if the lifeguard does not act to help, she may be held liable for the drowning because the lifeguard’s employment places her in arelationship with swimmers in the pool. Because of this relationship, the lifeguard owes a duty to take affirmative steps to prevent harm to the swimmers.

Courts have found a preexisting relationship and a duty to act in various relationships, such as the relationship between Husband and Wife, innkeeper and guest, employer and employee, jailer and prisoner, carrier and passenger, Parent and Child, school and pupil, and host and guest. A person who renders aid or protection to a stranger also may be found liable if the rescuer does not act reasonably and leaves the stranger in a more dangerous position, even if therescuer had nothing to do with the initial cause of the stranger’s dilemma.

Courts have found a duty to act if a person does something innocuous that later poses a threat and then fails to act to prevent harm. For example, assume that Johnny loans a powerful circular saw to Bobby. If Johnny later remembersthat the bolt securing the blade is loose and that the blade will dislodge in a dangerous manner when the saw is used, Johnny must try to warn Bobby. If Bobby is injured because Johnny failed to act, Johnny can be held liable fornonfeasance.

In theory nonfeasance is distinct from misfeasance and malfeasance. Malfeasance is any act that is illegal or wrongful. Misfeasance is an act that is legal but improperly performed. Nonfeasance, by contrast, is a failure to act that resultsin harm.

In practice the distinctions between the three terms are nebulous and difficult to apply. Courts in various jurisdictions have crafted different rules relating to the terms. The most difficult issue that faces courts is whether to imply a duty toact and find liability for the failure to act.

Originally courts used the term nonfeasance to describe a failure to act that did not give rise to liability for injuries. The meaning of the term reversed direction over time, and most courts now use it to describe inaction that createsliability.

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