Family Says Home for Mental Health Patients Failed to Notify About Man's Disappearance

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A 56-year-old man missing for weeks after walking away from a community-based home for mental health patients in Prince George's County was found sleeping on the streets of D.C. this past weekend by a family friend. His family said it was two weeks before they were told he had left the home.

Growing up, Marcellus Treadwell took care of his younger sister, Oreadea Treadwell.

“We were very close,” she said.

As he got older, it was discovered he had mental illness, and his sister needed help taking care of him. Since 2004, Marcellus Treadwell has lived at a group home in Largo, Maryland, operated by Psychotherapeutic Services.

In late June, his family couldn't get him on the phone.

“After a while of constantly calling, then a family member went over to check on him, and that is when we were told he was missing and had been missing for at least two weeks,” Oreadea Treadwell said.

He’d last been seen June 18. His family was not contacted, but a supervisor at the home told them a police report was filed.

“I had to process it first, because the word ‘missing’ by itself is just a difficult word, and then attached to my brother's name is something I never dreamed could ever happen or would ever happen,” Oreadea Treadwell said. 

“Treatment providers assuming that they can't communicate with families is a very big problem,” said Ron Honberg, retired director of legal affairs for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Honberg, an expert in mental health law, says sometimes homes misinterpret HIPAA, the federal law protecting medical information. Often, the assumption is contacting family in these situations violates patient rights, but Honberg says that's not HIPPA's intention.

“Those are the times when people are most vulnerable and those are the times people need compassionate assistance the most,” he said. “And yet laws are interpreted in a way that serves as bars to providing that kind of compassion and assistance. It's a real a tragedy.”

Marcellus Treadwell's family made posters, added his name to a long list of Maryland's missing and unidentified. He was found Saturday three weeks and two days after leaving the home.

His family said he is not doing very well since returning home and they are currently looking for someplace else to place him.

Psychotherapeutic Services is an authorized provider for Maryland Medical Assistance as part of the Maryland Public Mental Health System, according to the company's website. They also provide services for the uninsured. News4 requested an interview with the CEO but has not received a response.

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