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DMH DIRECTOR HAVEMAN'S VISION TO CLOSE STATE INSTITUTIONS IS SEEN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL NIGHTMARE

 DMH DIRECTOR HAVEMAN'S VISION TO CLOSE STATE INSTITUTIONS
 IS SEEN AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL NIGHTMARE
 SOUTHFIELD, Mich., April 8 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was released today by the law firm Miller, Cohen, Martens, Ice & Geary:
 A statewide coalition of two of the leading patient advocacy groups along with a number of individual Wayne County plaintiffs have today filed suit in Wayne Circuit Court challenging the "vision" of Department of Mental Health (DMH) Director James K. Haveman calling for the closure of the state's institutions.
 Haveman published a "vision statement" in March 1991 in which he declared the policy of the Department of Mental Health is to go out of the business of providing care for the mentally handicapped in institutions. Since the publication of this vision statement, four institutions have been shuttered and their inhabitants expelled. The state threatens closure of three institutions this year.
 The lawsuit claims that a constitutional violation has occurred because under Article VIII, Section 8 of the 1963 Michigan Constitution "Institutions ... for the care, treatment, education and rehabilitation of those inhabitants who are physically, mentally, or otherwise seriously handicapped shall always be fostered and supported."
 Sam Davis, executive director of the Michigan Association for Emotionally Disturbed Children, a non-profit group that has advocated on behalf of emotionally disturbed children for decades, said:
 "Mr. Haveman proposes to close all state institutions. He has already taken significant actions towards this end. His position on closure is not based on medical or fiscal needs but is a function of his free market ideology that the state should not be in the business of directly providing for the health care needs of its citizens. The precipitate closures have created an unconstitutional mental health nightmare. But, we live in a land of law and Mr. Haveman does not have the right or the power to substitute his personal philosophy for the people's constitution. That constitution requires of him that 'institutions ... shall always be fostered and supported.'"
 The suit points out that the State Mental Health Code, enacted in 1974, omitted the institution requirement of the constitution in setting forth the duties of the Department of Mental Health. The State Mental Health Code discriminates against institutions by providing financial penalties to community mental health boards that refer patients to them. The county is taxed a penalty of 10 percent of the cost of patient care in institutions, a charge not imposed when the community mental health board refers the same patient to private facilities.
 The Department of Mental Health also discriminates against institutions in the way it distributes funds appropriated by the Legislature to operate institutions. That money is allotted by the department to the community health boards which control the admissions and discharges for patients in their area. The community mental health boards are encouraged by the Department of Mental Health to discriminate against the institutions because the department gives the community mental health boards all the money they save from not referring patients to or discharging patients from institutions. The community mental health boards keep all this money which they are then free to spend in their community programs, therefore violating the constitutional injunction that "institutions ... shall always be fostered and supported."
 Lou Vescio, president of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, a statewide advocacy group that is also a plaintiff in the suit, commented:
 "There has been a gradual movement from institutions to community mental health over the years. But we have never been faced with a situation where the Department of Mental Health has proposed, as a matter of principle, to stop providing these important services all together. As a result of this misguided policy which is not based, according to Mr. Haveman, on financial or medical conditions, the mentally ill and the community have suffered real harm. Patients have been precipitously expelled into the community without the resources to care for them. People have died because of a lack of care. Others have been involved in homicides and committed suicide. The number of mentally ill among the homeless and in the prisons has increased."
 A recent poll conducted by Greenburg/Lake Group of Washington, which surveyed 1,100 Michigan voters with a margin of error of only 3.4 percent, found that 83 percent of Michigan resident opposed the closing of state facilities for the mentally ill.
 "This poll proves that the people of Michigan believe strongly in the role of the state in providing care for the mentally ill and disabled, a policy enshrined in their constitution. The department is out of step with the law and the people," said Bruce A. Miller, the attorney for the plaintiffs.
 The suit alleges that as a result of the implementation of the closure policy whole areas of the state have been denied access to institutions, particularly in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Community mental health boards are not fulfilling their statutory duty of giving priority to those most seriously mentally ill because they warehouse these people in adult foster care homes, which have been the repeated subject of scandals, that fail to provide services commensurate with need and are not properly supervised by the state.
 The plaintiffs in their suit make clear that they do not oppose community mental health programs conducted under proper supervision insofar as these programs to not operate in violation of the constitutional obligation of the state to always foster and support institutions or otherwise violate state law.
 -0- 4/8/92
 /CONTACT: Bruce A. Miller of Miller, Cohen, Martens, Ice & Geary, 313-559-2110/ CO: ST: Michigan IN: HEA SU:


ML -- DE023 -- 6341 04/08/92 14:23 EDT
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Date:Apr 8, 1992
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