Washington, D.C. may soon reach a settlement to end the class-action lawsuit that has plagued the city for over 37 years in the court system. The result of the Dixon v. Gray suit may end court oversight of its services for the mentally ill.
The District has had a history of mismanagement, and reolving this can be seen as a victory for the city, which has affected more than 27,000 residents.
The last eight (8) months of intense work has brought about real progress as mentioned by U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, the third federal judge overseeing the case.
“Man, I remember the beginning of that whole situation,” said Avery Duncan, returning citizen and long time District resident. “I’m glad that it looks like its gonna be over.”
LaKesha Douglas said, “That place has been nasty for a long time, and everyone who’s ever gone there, I’ve felt bad for them.”
Judge Hogan has scheduled a February 2, 2012, hearing.
Many mental health professionals believe this to be real success in D.C. Director of mental health for D.C. Stephen T. Baron has said, “It looks like we’re going to make it happen…”
In April 2010, city officials opened the new St. Elizabeth Hospital, located on a vast federal reservation, which cost the city $161 million. It holds around 3,200 less people than the old building, but they say patients receive better care. Presently, the city has about 17,000 residents receiving care in community-based treatment programs, or private care.
In 1974, William Dixon, a patient at St. Elizabeths Hospital, didn’t want to be at the mental health hospital. Other patients also disapproved about having no real option but going there; they were interested in tratment options. A year later, a judge expanded the case to cover all of the District’s mentally ill residents.
Eventually, when a lawsuit was filed, those involved hoped the city would immediately address the problem and update the building. Six yearrs later, the city agreed to establish a series of community-based treatment option, but came up against problems of historic mismanagement and monitoring.
In 1997, a federal judge placed Wahington, D.C.’s mental health department under receivership, and three years later the city regained control. District officials promised to meet nineteen (19) specific conditions to close the case. Increasing billings to Medicaid, updating systems, retraining of the city’s mental health professionals, and using modern medications [especially for residents with schizophrenia].