End Appears Near in Long-Running D.C. Mental Health Lawsuit

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    A long-running lawsuit over the District of Columbia's health services to seriously mentally ill residents appears to be coming to a close.

    A federal judge on Monday gave preliminary approval to a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought by mental health patients which dates to 1974 and led to changes in the way the city cares for its mentally ill residents. Under the agreement, the city will increase job services and housing options for the mentally ill. The agreement also requires that the city reduce its use of restrictive inpatient facilities for mentally ill children and youth and rely more on community-based treatment.

    The city has until September 2013 to make the changes.

    The settlement would end court oversight of D.C.’s public mental health system.

    “We believe the settlement agreement sustains and builds on the progress we’ve made to build a high-quality mental health system,” Department of Mental Health Director Stephen Baron said.

    The public can comment on the settlement through December via the Department of Mental Health website. www.dmh.dc.gov A judge could give final approval to the settlement in February.

    When the so-called Dixon lawsuit was filed in 1974, about 3,600 mental health patients were in St. Elizabeths Hospital. Fewer than 300 mental health patients are hospitalized today. About 98 percent of D.C.’s mental health patients are treated at community mental health clinics.