D.C. Mental Health Lawsuit Ends After 4 Decades

Class action suit against District filed in 1974

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Washington, D.C., has done enough to improve its mental health services. The ruling ended a 37-year-old class action lawsuit that forced the city to spend millions on the mental health system. (Published Thursday, Feb 16, 2012)

    After almost four decades, a class-action lawsuit that forced the District of Columbia to spend millions of dollars to improve mental health service is finally over.

    Federal Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Thursday that the District has done enough to improve its mental health services and signed an order ending the lawsuit first filed against the District in 1974.

    “The judge, as I said, said this was a historic and memorable occasion in the history of the District of Columbia,” D.C. Attorney General Irving Nathan said.

    For too many decades, mental health service in America was little more than warehousing of patients, but now social and psychiatric help comes mainly in community-based services that allow patients in their homes or in group homes.

    “We really have over the years made enormous progress in building a solid community health system,” Mayor Vincent Gray said.

    The ruling frees of the District from spending millions of dollars in court and monitoring fees to focus on the $160 million mental health system, including expanding those services.

    Patient advocates praised the court ruling but said cuts in federal funding and rising costs have driven some neighborhood mental health services out of business and they need more help.

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