The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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August 25, 2013

Ohio AG: Mental illness gun law data don't add up

(Continued)

COLUMBUS —

In many cases, judges in counties without mental health treatment centers refer defendants to other counties. As a result, those cases are reported by another probate court.

That's the case in Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio, which reported just three cases over nine years.

Ashtabula County Probate Judge Charles Hague thinks the problem runs deeper. He says the state's mental health system is broken and needs to be overhauled.

Hague also points out that individuals who go through a separate commitment system, known in the mental health field as "pink slipping," aren't reflected in the probate court numbers at all.

In cases where a commitment occurs without the court's knowledge, "Then, bingo, they're outside the statute forever," Hague said.

Including all people in the mental illness commitment process, some of whom ultimately sign themselves in voluntarily, would cast too wide a net, said Marc Baumgarten, chief of legal services for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

"You want to encourage people to get help," he said. "You don't want a stigma associated with people going into the hospital to get help."

___

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus

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