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Flaherty: Man has terrorized South Boston residents for years; city, DA need to make it easier to get people like him into treatment

City Councilor Michael Flaherty says that the case of a man charged with threatening him and his campaign staff and injuring two Boston police officers highlights Boston's needs for better mental-health care - and that he hopes that, this time, the man can get the care he needs.

In a statement on his Facebook page, the at-large councilor says the man, John Donovan, "has terrorized people in my neighborhood for years, resulting in many restraining orders," and that his case shows the failings of the current mental-health care system for dealing with violent people with mental problems.

This incident is another testament to how critical access to adequate mental health services is. Mental health issues are complex and there is no one solution; which is why as a City, we need to do a better job of meeting people where they are at with mental health disorders. We need to ensure that anyone who needs access to mental health services has immediate access to a robust, full spectrum of care.

Given the severity of the situation, I am calling upon the Suffolk County District Attorney's office to take this matter seriously--this is not an isolated case of a someone having a bad day.

He continues:

Unfortunately, traditional methods have not yielded any positive results for this man. He may be a perfect candidate for the Boston Mental Health Court. The Boston Mental Health Court includes a court-imposed condition of probation for defendants who have serious mental illness or co-occurring mental health or substance use disorder. The sessions provide an alternative to incarceration by providing defendants access to case managers and a comprehensive variety of community-based services such as intensive social services, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment where appropriate, and other wrap-around services that help defendants achieve stability, avoid recidivism, and as a result, increase public safety for our residents.

I'd like to stress that there are families impacted on all sides of this incident. We need to work collectively to ensure that those who are suffering from mental health disorders have the care they need to prevent incidents like this from happening again. My prayers to him and his family.

Flaherty also praised Boston Housing Police and Boston police officers for "de-escalating what could have been a very tragic situation, and said he hopes the officers injured in arresting him make a fast and full recovery.

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Comments

John Donovon needs medication for all sorts of disorders but at some point that medication doesn't make it into his system and then things like this happen.

So the concept isn't that difficult. If Donovan takes his meds, none of this happens. The complex part is who forces Donovan to take them. Can we force him? Do we lock him up and keep him somewhere where we can force him?

This guy has had access to the mental health care system for the past 20 years. Access isn't the issue. The followups are the issue. This guy taking his meds is the issue.

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How do you know he had access to the mental health care system?
If he did, how do you know he was prescribed the right meds?
If he was, how do you know he could afford the medication?
If he could, how do you know that those meds still worked for him (it's not uncommon for people to need meds changes over time)?
If they did, how do you know he hadn't developed dangerous or intolerable side effects?

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That's why.

And I know 100 people just like him. Same story.

Like I said, simple but complicated issue here.

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You know one hundred people who are just like this guy? That’s scary.

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I also know you very well. You don't even know it.

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Creepy stalker threat is creepy.

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Liberty and self determination are fundamental values. So is public safety. We haven’t yet come up with a great way of dealing with people who lack criminal intent but whose behavior threatens public safety. The asylum movement of the 19th century was well intentioned, but as resources were cut and utilization went up, places that had initially been peaceful, bucolic places for the insane to live apart from society became grim, punitive, overcrowded, understaffed hellholes, and so in the 1970s, shutting them down and discharging the residents seemed like a good idea. And it would have been, if we had enough trained caseworkers. But dumping a person with marginally controlled mental illness into society without either a carrot or a stick to ensure treatment, and with a 100 patient caseload for a social worker... leads to this.

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One reason there hasnt been much movement here is money.

Who's going to pay for all this?

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We have plenty of money.

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if the city can spend money on sunscreen dispensers it can reallocate those funds to mental health services.

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Why are both not achievable? Do you really think sunscreen is that negligible and frivolous? I assure you that cancer is a public health risk as much as untreated mental health issues. The sunscreen dispensers are probably cheaper than paying and retaining an LICSW for a couple years until burnout sets in. No need to deprive people of one for the other.

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If there is plenty of money, why hasnt anything been done?

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Because we have spent it on everyone having a $1000 phone in their pocket and on having folks with a quarter trillion in accumulated wealth.

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I'll pay my part. As a region, there's so much money here it's ridiculous; we are one of the wealthiest areas in the wealthiest nation on the planet. The money is here. What's missing is people being willing to use that wealth for the common good.

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The richest country, in the history of the world

We DoNT hAVe aNy MoNey!

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and tell me again how we have no money.

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How about 10-15 years in Shirley super max. There's your treatment. Terrorized for years ? Wow how far they let people that look like him do what ever they want. No repercussions.

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WBZ reports Donovan was sent straight to a place where he can have a psychiatric evaluation done.

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We hear everyday about someone who has a temporary sentence given by a judge for "Mental Health Evaluation"

BUT then what -- some of these people swing back and forth between "Sanity" and "?????" -- when they are sane or marginally off -- they can co-exist with the rest of society

But What do we do when they are swinging into " ???????" mode -- they might be passive and nearly comatose --- and a danger to themselves [wandering into traffic, etc] or they might be highly aggressive and a danger to others [e.g. setting fire to person in an alcohol or illicit drug induced stupor, or perhaps arguing with another in a similar state of mental distress and in the end stabbing that person or a "first responder" coming to their aid]

How do we solve this --- ??????? --- as they say there are no easy answers

We can err on the side of public safety and "toss the person into the Loony Bin" -- but perhaps they are only in that state 10% of the time

We can err on the side of civil liberties and prescribe some psychoactive drugs and release them to a half-way house or onto the Boston Common. The drugs most of the time suppress them even more than necessary to insure the necessary degree of control the 10% of the time.

But what if the person in a good state doesn't take the drugs in order to minimize the unpleasant side effects and when they need the drugs -- the reaction time [even if they wanted to get back in control] is too long to be useful -- and they go into the uncontrolled and potentially dangerous state.

Today -- those are the choices. In the relatively near future the person could be monitored remotely with sensors and AI detecting the onset of an "event" and the proper amount of drug administered by an implanted robotic device [we do this now for people with diabetes and other hormone diseases]. There are profound civil liberty issues associated even with this ostensibly benign intervention.

At this stage of the game -- the best solution for all concerned is to "Lock them up" in as benign and humane setting as possible

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Temper tantrum with a slap on the wrist to follow. Maybe next time he will go to far and really hurt someone. Do we still blame it on his socalled disorder.

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This is an example of why state hospitals should not have been done away with. Unfortunately, there are, not necessarily evil, but definitely dangerous people who just cannot live among the general population in our society. I hope this man can get the help he needs and I hope Councilman Flaherty and others who have been terrorized by this guy are relieved that he’s, at least temporarily, out of their hair.

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