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The Western Psych lawsuit: A failure to act

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The newly amended lawsuit filed by a UPMC Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic receptionist wounded in John Shick's March 2012 shooting rampage of course casts the best possible light on her case. But it nonetheless suggests serious and disturbing flaws in the mental-health system.

The University of Pittsburgh, UPMC, University of Pittsburgh Physicians, re:solve Crisis Network and Mr. Shick's mother are now defendants along with the estate of Mr. Shick, who was killed by Pitt police. The lawsuit thus begs the question of how and why the mental-health system left him free to kill a 25-year-old therapist and wound five after he had:

• Been committed involuntarily five times in New York and Oregon — twice after attacks on police and airport security — and diagnosed as schizophrenic.

• Been expelled and banned from Duquesne University's campus for harassing female students as a graduate student in 2011.

• Been diagnosed in late November 2011 as a schizophrenic not taking his medication — and refused treatment.

• Brought a baseball bat to medical facilities, then declined a mobile crisis team's help — twice.

All this, plus two doctors' puzzling failure to follow through on filing involuntary commitment papers, suggests a systemic failure to protect the public — and Shick himself — from the dangers his mental illness posed. And unless the systemic flaws exposed are rectified, it's only a matter of time until another, similar tragedy occurs.

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