Sunday, June 03, 2007

I Am Sorry for the Death of Jason West

How to Protect the Mentally Ill?

I live in Cleveland Heights, and have been deeply saddened by the loss of Officer Jason West. I have read as much as I can, and listened to the Regina Brett Sound of Ideas on Friday show about the whole affair. It was amazing to hear from the mother of Timothy Halton Jr. call into the show to say that she was not given enough help for her child. I also understand that Mental Health Services revealed that Mr. Halton was recently homeless. I read Phillip Morris' column in the Plain Dealer, and his snap assessment of the whole affair. It was good that he talked to the mother, but I am not sure one law could have prevented this sad encounter on Altamont Ave. I have seen some of the crazy comments, the tremendous sadness, and the anger.

The one thing that I have not seen is an apology. No where on any of the local Mental Health Agencies websites did anyone say, "We are sorry that we messed up." The President of the Mental Health Board wrote a letter to the editor in todays paper, and yet there was no apology. This was a colossal failure of the system, and someone should apologize. The reason that people do not trust government or government institutions is because no one ever takes responsibility. No one ever admits that they messed up or that they let someone slip through the cracks. We are all so afraid of lawsuits that no one ever takes responsibility for anything.

NEOCH is the advocacy organization working to end homelessness. Mr. Halton Jr. was homeless, and we did not do our jobs before that fateful May 25th evening. I want to tell the family of Officer West that I am sorry for not doing enough to protect him from a serious mentally ill man. I am sorry to the other police officers in Cleveland Heights for making their job more complicated. I will dedicate myself to do more to make sure that people do not fall through the cracks. I will do all that I can to protect my constituents who are homeless from extreme responses to this tragedy while balancing public safety. I will work as hard as I can to make sure that there are no more deaths due to mental illness.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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