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Elderly, mentally ill and children trapped in broken court system

Thousands of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents are trapped in a system that was created to protect them but instead allows unscrupulous guardians to rob them of their freedom, dignity and money. Even judges who oversee the system acknowledge that it is broken, that it has ripped apart families, rendered the mentally ill voiceless, and left some elderly Ohioans dying penniless in nursing homes, a yearlong Columbus Dispatch investigation found.

Children under guardianship are all but forgotten. Adults without an estate are virtually ignored. And those who aren’t really mentally incompetent find it nearly impossible to end a guardianship. The 5-day series, which concludes May 22, has prompted criminal investigations by the Franklin County Prosecutor and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

States have been reducing hospital beds for decades, because of insurance pressures as well as a desire to provide more care outside institutions, USA TODAY reports.

Tight budgets during the recession forced some of the most devastating cuts in recent memory, says Robert Glover, executive director of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. States cut $5 billion in mental health services from 2009 to 2012. In the same period, the country eliminated at least 4,500 public psychiatric hospital beds — nearly 10% of the total supply, he says.

The result is that, all too often, people with mental illness get no care at all.

In a series of stories in the coming months, USA TODAY will explore the human and financial costs that the country pays for not caring more about the 10 million Americans with serious mental illness.

Read the full story here.

ProPublica recently reported that lobbyists for Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, reached out to community leaders and officials persuading them that pre-filled tax returns would essentially hurt low-income Americans. 

What community leaders and officials failed to realize was that the pre-filled tax returns, already endorsed by President Obama and President Reagan, would use information that the government already receives from national banks and employers. The pre-filled tax returns would be voluntary services that taxpayers could use and adjust, making it easier and cheaper for many Americans to file their taxes. 

Craig Russell Wishnick is one of 238 residents of Dutchess and Ulster counties to die by suicide in the five years ending in 2011, 73 more than in the five years ending in 2003, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal analysis of death certificates over a 13-year period. That is an increase in harder-hit Dutchess of 62 percent and the first hike in the county rate after a quarter-century of steady and solid decline.

City officials are moving more than 400 children and their families out of two city-owned shelters in the wake of a New York Times series about homeless children.

“For nearly three decades, thousands of children passed through Auburn and Catherine Street, living with cockroaches, spoiled food, violence and insufficient heat, even as inspectors warned that the shelters were unfit for children,” the Times wrote today.

“State and city inspectors have cited Auburn for over 400 violations — many of them repeated — for a range of hazards, including vermin, mold, lead exposure, an inoperable fire safety system, insufficient child care and the presence of sexual predators, among them, a caseworker.”

Read more here.

"The Balitmore Sun reports that over the past year and a half, the Baltimore City Department of Social Services paid $40,000 of taxpayer money to send youths in foster care to a private Christian school in Philadelphia where they have obtained a high school diploma in one day."

"USA TODAY examined FBI data -- which defines a mass killing as four or more victims -- as well as local police records and media reports to understand mass killings in America. They happen far more often than the government reports, and the circumstances of those killings -- the people who commit them, the weapons they use and the forces that motivate them -- are far more predictable than many might think."

WNYC News reports that "over the past decade, as New York City’s backlog of felony cases has grown, so too has the time defendants are spending behind bars before trial. The average pretrial detention in a felony case was 95 days in 2012."

"In part three of Homes for the Taking, The Washington Post's Debbie Cenziper, Mike Sallah and Steven Rich found the District's tax office has risked 1,900 houses to foreclosure by mistakenly counting property owners as delinquent even after they paid their taxes, forcing them to fight for their homes in grueling legal battles that persisted for years. One mistake for $44.79 cost a 95-year-old woman her home. City leaders have offered up emergency legislation."

The series references a 2007 series of work by Fred Schulte. You can read more of Schulte's work on the topic below:

Ryan Gabrielson of The Center for Investigative Reporting reports that "California regulators routinely have conducted cursory and indifferent investigations into suspected violence and misconduct committed by hundreds of nursing assistants and in-home health aides – putting the elderly, sick and disabled at risk over the past decade."

In two stories published yesterday, Gabrielson's examines how and why these cases are dismissed and details the case of an edlerly woman whose suspicious death was largely ignored by state regulators.

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