Commitments for Portage residents counted where hearings occur

By Mike Sever | staff writer Published:

Portage County was not in a list of counties reporting court-ordered mental illness treatment. That's because there is no in-patient mental health treatment center in Portage and residents in need of such treatment have to go outside the county.

The list accompanied an Associated Press article that ran in the Aug. 26 Record-Courier. The story was about the Ohio attorney general questioning if there was a discrepancy in the numbers of people subject to court-ordered hospitalization for mental illness who could be prevented from getting a concealed carry weapon permit.

See previous story:

Official: Gun law data not adding up

"The commitment process happens when they are in the hospital so it takes place in that county's probate court. So Portage numbers are included with the Summit and Stark numbers," said Amie Cajka, head of community relations for the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County.

Joel Mowrey, executive director for the board, said there were about two dozen Portage residents who had commitment hearings in Stark and Summit counties in the period from July 2012 through June 2013. Those hearings would have been included in those county's numbers reported to the state, he said.

"They come out of the probate courts in primarily Stark County where Heartland Behavioral Health (which used to be Massillon State Psychiatric Hospital) is located and where we send people for short- to long-term hospitalization for mental illness," Cajka said.

The same also happens in Summit County Probate Court because the MHRB sends people for short term hospitalization to St. Thomas, Cajka said.

"The majority of people hospitalized for psychiatric problems are hospitalized voluntarily," Mowrey said. "Most you would never hear about, nor should you hear about."

A person may be referred for mental health screening by a court. That screening could occur through Coleman Access at St. Thomas or Akron General hospitals or a state hospital.

The hospital has three court days to make a decision on whether or discharge patient or conduct a probate hearing to determine if they will be committed for a longer time, Mowrey said.

If a person agrees to a voluntary hospitalization, that is not reported to the state.

"The majority of the people that we get hospitalized are not dangerous people. Often they are suicidal or they are struggling with a mental illness. At that point they are really incapable of taking care of themselves. Most people are not violent," Mowrey said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1125 or msever@recordpub.com

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Twitter: @MikeSever_RC

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