A question of mental illness

“Did they have a magic wand that somehow cured mental illness?’’

That poignant but simple question comes from state Sen. Kenneth Donnelly, a former Lexington firefighter, after the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team’s opening chapter in its piercing look at the state’s policy failure in closing mental health hospitals and the decision to replace the system with a patchwork of community support.

The first part – which first ran online last week and then splashed on the Sunday Globe front – gave a searing chronicle of death committed by people who should have and could have been in treatment had there been beds available. Since 2005, at least 139 people have been fatal victims of mentally ill suspects – including 17 parents who killed a child and 18 men or women who killed a parent.

The report lays the problem firmly at the feet of state lawmakers and health officials who, 50 years ago, began the process of deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill under the belief that integration into the mainstream community would be more helpful – and save money.

Save money it did, mainly, as the report shows, by not putting funds into the support networks that were needed in the communities and closing down facilities that could treat mental illness and creating a sharp shortage of beds.

Donnelly, as a firefighter, often checked on the vacant Metropolitan Hospital that sat in Lexington as well as spanned into Waltham and Belmont. The eerie emptiness always raised questions in his mind that didn’t seem to have answers.

“You’d walk in and see this whole complex where people just walked out,” Donnelly told Adrian Walker. “Everything was still there — the desks and the file cabinets — and you’d wonder what happened to the people who were there.”

What happened is they went off the radar and others like them who need services and treatment were left to their own wobbly devices and the care of well-intentioned but incapable family members. And the results have been building up over the years, many resulting in violence.

Spotlight built a database, the first of its kind, to aggregate and track the incidents and found the numbers are on the rise. And without policy and funding changes, it’s not going to get better.

The report highlighted incidents where a mentally ill person or his or her family sought treatment at a hospital only to be released after staff physicians, untrained in dealing with acute mental illness, deemed them no threat to themselves or the public. One of the most recent examples was in Taunton in May when Arthur DaRosa stabbed two people to death at a mall, just hours after being released from Morton Hospital despite his family’s pleas that he was violent and suicidal.

A few weeks later in Plymouth, Tyler Hagmaier, a 24-year-old man with a history of mental illness, stabbed to death his 76-year-old neighbor across the hall and later committed suicide. Police have been unable to find a motive.

“He wasn’t evil. He wasn’t bad,” Kristine Jelstrup, the daughter of Hagmaier’s victim, Vibeke Rasmussen, told the Globe. “He was mentally ill, and he didn’t get the help he needed.”

That is keen understanding coming from someone whose life was upended by decades of unintended consequences. One downside of the Spotlight story is the timing, coming in the final week of the fiscal year and just a month remaining in the legislative calendar. Nothing can be done by then and there is a fear the issue will just return to the shadows.

“We don’t warehouse people with mental illness anymore,” wrote columnist Yvonne Abraham. “But it seems we’re as determined as ever to forget them.”

–JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

A Globe editorial calls on House and Senate negotiators to reach a quick compromise on transgender rights legislation and get the bill to the governor’s desk.

The Senate unveiled an “aggressive” energy bill on Friday, setting up clashes with the House version on a number of issues, including Cape Wind and remuneration for utilities. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Herald says Mayor Marty Walsh is reeling under the weight of four federal or state probes now ongoing, but the mayor and his outside spokesman, Michael Goldman, insist he hasn’t lost his focus — or his popularity. Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld says of Walsh, “as a

manager and a leader, he’s been a big disappointment. And that’s being kind.”

The Fall River City Council has been operating under a false assumption — maybe as long as decades — that they were limited in their options to deal with the mayor’s budget, unaware that they could reduce line items rather than rejecting or reducing the entire budget. (Herald News)

Quincy has closed off the section of Hancock Street that runs between City Hall and the Church of Presidents, where the remains of two presidents lay. The city is also changing the traffic pattern downtown, all as part of an effort to make way for a pedestrian mall and revamped MBTA station as part of the massive downtown redevelopment. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

In its final three rulings for the term, the Supreme Court issued seismic decisions by striking down Texas’ restrictive abortion clinic regulations; upholding the government’s ban on gun licenses for those convicted of domestic violence; and vacating the conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, a decision that could have far-reaching impact on bringing corruption charges against public officials.

ELECTIONS

Renee Loth says women voters should be repulsed by Donald Trump — and send a loud message saying so this fall. (Boston Globe)

The pro-charter side in the looming Massachusetts ballot question battle has reserved $6.5 million of TV ad time this fall, and has hired to produce its ads the Washington, DC, outfit behind the notorious “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ads that slimed John Kerry in the 2004 presidential contest. (Politico)

Ten people are injured, five of them stabbed, as anti-fascist protesters clash with a neo-Nazi group that was setting up to help out at a Trump rally. (Sacramento Bee)

Hillary Clinton holds a double-digit lead over Trump in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. (Time)

The candidates’ approaches to the Zika virus threat illuminate clear differences between them, writes the Globe’s Tracy Jan, with Clinton rolling out a comprehensive plan to deal with the problem and Trump not providing any response to inquiries as to what he would do.

A public service announcement: Dr. Jill Stein doesn’t want you to forget she’s running for president this year as the presumptive Green Party nominee. (Keller@Large)

CASINOS

MGM lobbied to have an amendment inserted into a military bill in Congress that would block Connecticut’s Indian tribes’ plans to open a commercial casino that would compete with the companies coming Springfield casino. (Boston Globe)

Three of the five buildings on the site of the planned First Light casino in Taunton have been demolished and officials for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe say the pending suit is not slowing construction. (Taunton Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Boston Marathon survivors travel to Orlando to meet hospitalized survivors of the massacre at the nightclub Pulse. (ABC News)

Tax-cut fever has stalled among the states. (Governing)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The $2.08 trillion wiped off global equity markets in the wake of the Brexit vote is the largest ever. (Reuters)

The New York Times has two “special reports” about the entry of private equity firms into areas such as public safety and the housing market and the results are not good.

EDUCATION

The state’s turnaround plan for the Southbridge schools includes an extended day, new curriculum, and measures to retain good teachers. (Masslive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The threatened nurses strike at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital was averted over the weekend, with some help from Mayor Marty Walsh and a cast of other high-powered players  who helped cajole both sides to a settlement. (Boston Globe)

A $7 million doctor-ranking system run by the state’s Group Insurance Commission is full of flaws. (Lowell Sun)

A Gloucester Times editorial says football should reduce the high incidence of concussions by teaching a new way of tackling borrowed from rugby.

TRANSPORTATION

Jack Spillane says Gov. Charlie Baker is throwing in the towel on South Coast Rail. (Standard-Times)

The MBTA pension fund’s profile worsens. (Boston Globe)

A flawed intersection reconstruction in Quincy has forced the MBTA to eliminate four bus stops and require passengers, many of them elderly, to walk several hundred yards on a busy thoroughfare to the new stops. (Patriot Ledger)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Eversource is seekingto relocate power lines from along Cedar Pond where cormorants rest in order to improve water quality. The utility wants to split the $1.8 million cost with the town of Orleans. (Cape Cod Times)

Danvers officials accuse the town’s waste hauler of mixing trash and recyclables in the same dump truck. (Salem News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

After his arrest for drunken driving, Boston Bruins legend Ray Bourque issues a statement taking responsibility for his actions and seeking privacy. (Masslive)

Police in Westford arrest the occupants of a house where butane hash oil, a potent drug extracted from marijuana, was being produced and sold. (The Sun)