Boot Camp or Death Camp?
March 3, 2000
NAMI ASKS ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO FOR INVESTIGATION OF STATE OF FLORIDA's MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT OF CHILDREN & ADOLESCENTS
Request Follows Death of 12-Year Old Boy In Wilderness Camp
Arlington, VA-The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has requested an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into Florida's treatment of children with serious brain disorders, following the February 5th death of 12-year-old boy with mental illness at a wilderness camp for juvenile offenders.
Last week, a Florida grand jury absolved of any wrong-doing a 320-pound counselor who restrained Michael Wiltsie-who weighed only 65 pounds-saying that the counselor had "followed the procedure he had been taught." However, the grand jury criticized Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice for placing the boy at the camp rather than in a mental health facility as a medical professional recommended in November 1999. Wiltsie also was forced to stop taking his psychiatric medication to comply with the privately run camp's policy.
"The tragedy illustrates widespread, systemic problems in the way Florida responds to the needs of children with mental illnesses," NAMI executive director Laurie Flynn declared in a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno. "Michael Wiltsie's death is more than death due to restraints. It is a treatment denied death, representing a failure of Florida's mental health system. Florida's mental health program, not the juvenile justice system, should have been providing care for this child."
Citing the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel's November 1999 investigative series, "Throwaway Kids," Flynn called the Wiltsie case "part of a pattern of inadequate treatment and gross violations of the civil rights of children and adolescents with mental illnesses under the care of the state.
" Florida's practices, she said, "also seem to disregard the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in L.C. v. Olmstead, holding that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires states to provide services to adults and children with disabilities in the setting most appropriate to their needs."