by Derek Gilna
On June 13, 2018, attorneys representing mentally ill defendants held in Colorado jails moved to reopen a 2012 class-action settlement in which the state agreed to cease “warehousing” mentally ill prisoners and provide them with timely evaluations. According to plaintiffs’ counsel, “Under the terms of [that] settlement agreement, the Department [of Human Services] is required to admit a pretrial detainee to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (“CMHIP”) within 28 days of ... admission date for an evaluation or restorative treatment and to maintain a monthly average of no more than 24 days for all pretrial detainees to be admitted to CMHIP for evaluation or treatment.”
However, over the next three years not only did the state of Colorado fail to comply with the terms of the settlement, it apparently also tried to conceal its non-compliance. “[T]he State provided Disability Law Colorado with incorrect data making it appear the State was in full compliance with the deadlines, but Disability Law Colorado uncovered that almost 80 individuals were waiting three times as long – once again in a crisis situation.”
In an attempt to remedy this failure by the state, the parties agreed in 2016 to modify the settlement agreement to appoint an independent administrator to supervise future compliance. One year later, however, Colorado officials admitted they were still unable to adhere to the settlement, sparking the motion to reopen the case in federal district court.
“We must find some real solutions in the State of Colorado and in our country to once and for all eradicate the criminalization of persons with mental disabilities. Real solutions are a re-creation of a real, community-based mental health system,” said Iris Eytan, one of the attorneys in the class-action suit. “The Department has struggled with this problem for a decade, but has not come up with a long-term or community-based solution, and in the meantime thousands of people’s constitutional rights are being violated. This must be resolved in the immediate future,” she added.
Another lawyer representing the class members, Mark Ivandick, managing attorney for Disability Law Colorado, said, “thousands of individuals with mental illness ... continue to be warehoused in jails without court-ordered treatment. We are seeking the federal court’s assistance to enforce the agreement in hopes that this vulnerable and often poor population [is] not warehoused and forgotten about indefinitely.” The lawsuit remains pending, with cross-motions for summary judgment filed in August 2018. See: Center for Legal Advocacy v. Bicha, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:11-cv-02285-NYW.
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Related legal case
Center for Legal Advocacy v. Bicha
|U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:11-cv-02285-NYW