crime

Mother asks Maricopa County prosecutors to release her daughter, a 19-year-old with mental illness, from Lower Buckeye Jail

Image: a screenshot of the Arizona Republic article about Gloria by reporter Uriel Garcia.
Image: a screenshot of the Arizona Republic article on Gloria by reporter Uriel J. Garcia. 

Valentina Gloria, a 19-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, has been detained at Maricopa County’s Lower Buckeye Jail for nearly six months, since February of this year. Now Vangelina Gloria, Valentina’s mother, is pleading for her teen daughter’s release.

Some say Valentina’s case exemplifies how our legal system criminalizes mental illness. Her predicament also highlights the ways in which our criminal justice system fails at providing quality mental healthcare to those who need it.

With support from Puente Arizona, a Phoenix-based migrant justice organization, Vangelina wrote a letter to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery earlier this week, requesting that he drop the charges against Valentina and release her from police custody. According to azcentral.com and court documents, Valentina has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, paranoia, depression, schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Vangelina believes that being in jail is exacerbating her daughter’s mental health condition.

How did Valentina end up in jail?

In December 2018, [Valentina] Gloria was being treated in a behavioral health unit at St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was accused and arrested for spitting and punching two different nurses; she was then charged with two counts of aggravated assault. Then in May, a county judge ruled Valentina was incompetent to face the charges in court and ordered her to stay in jail to receive treatment through the County’s Restoration to Competency Program. A previous Arizona Republic analysis of Maricopa County’s Restoration to Competency Program expressed concerns about the program’s inefficiency and questioned the quality of the jailhouse mental healthcare provided by the county.

Click here to read an azcentral.com article recounting Vangelina’s efforts to secure Valentina’s release.

Mishandling mental health crises to blame for spike in officer-involved shootings

police shootings in PHX
Above: A close-up photo of yellow crime scene tape. Improving the way police are trained to interact with people who have mental health issues or other disabilities is one of nine recommendations included in the report. (Photo: Shutterstock)

What accounts for the sharp increase in the number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix last year? A lack of mental health resources, according to a report released by the National Police Foundation on Friday. The report, which was commissioned by the city of Phoenix as a response to last year’s spike in incidences of officer-involved shootings, points to a number of underlying causes for the uptick. That police officers are fielding a growing number of 911 calls involving people with mental health issues is one of them.

Phoenix police officers who were interviewed for the study said they felt unprepared to respond to these kind of situations. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams added that law enforcement officers shouldn’t be the first (or only) line of help available to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis and that many of the calls her department receives could be rerouted to alternative resources.

Read the Cronkite News story online. You can also download a copy of the National Police Foundation’s 72-page report here.

Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council releases report on sexual abuse of Arizonans with disabilities

 

2019 ADDPC recommendations on preventing abuse
Cover page of the report produced by the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC) has released a special report with recommendations for the Arizona State Legislature and Arizona state agencies to prevent sexual abuse of Arizonans with developmental disabilities.

While the recent crisis at Hacienda HealthCare continues to draw attention to problems within Arizona’s current system of monitoring and reporting sexual abuse of people with disabilities, almost no formal policies designed to recognize and prevent such abuse exist. The Council’s report is called “Sexual Abuse of Arizonans with Developmental and Other Disabilities” and it contains specific actions that state agencies and care providers can take to prevent the sexual abuse of vulnerable adults.

Read the ADDPC report: Sexual Abuse of Arizonans with Developmental and Other Disabilities

 

Labeling mass shooters as “sickos” perpetuates mental health stigmas

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement condemning the imprecise language recently used by public figures to discuss the connection between mental health and mass shootings. President Trump and Dana Loesch, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, used words including “sicko,” “nuts” and “crazy person” to describe the diagnoses of mass shooter Nikolas Cruz. The NAMI statement criticizes such comments as reinforcing “inaccurate and negative stereotypes” that “create barriers to having real conversations about how to improve the mental health services that lead to recovery and participation in American society by people experiencing mental health conditions.” CNN.com interviewed several mental health experts who also suggested that mental illness is not a reliable condition for predicting violent behavior. Click here to read NAMI’s statement and click here to read CNN’s article.

Tampa Bay Times publishes 10yr update on Pulitzer-winning “Girl in the Window”

Danielle was almost 7 years old when detectives removed her from a filthy house in Plant City, Florida. She was so malnourished and neglected that doctors predicted she would be disabled for the rest of her life. The Tampa Bay Times’s Lane DeGregory won the 2009  Pulitzer Prize for her profile of Dani and her adoptive family. Yesterday, Nov 29, DeGregoy published a fascinating update about Dani’s condition. Check out DeGregory’s latest report by clicking HERE, and to read the original award-winning story click HERE.

ProPublica

Level 14: A Home for California’s Most Troubled Children Comes Undone

In this investigative series into one of California’s largest group homes for children with mental disabilities and emotional disorders, ProPublica journalists expose failures at nearly every level to protect its troubled residents. The insitution at the center of the story, FamiliesFirst in Davis, was raided by police in June 2013 after a year of responding to hundreds of calls about drug use, rape, violence and negligence. According to reporter Joaquin Sapien’s explanation of how the story was covered, the investigators obtained data through public records requests and drew from interviews with more than three dozen subjects, including social workers and children who worked and lived in the home.

Read more, and watch the accompanying documentary “Sule’s Story,” at ProPublica.