The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

October 6, 2013

More resources needed to help mentally ill

As Burt Ewing Jr. became more mentally ill and more violent, police were called at least three times and he would be placed in the hospital on a 72-hour hold. Then he'd be released to start the cycle again.

Burt Jr. still wasn't receiving any regular psychiatric care nor was he consistently taking medication prescribed during hospital stays. He didn't have insurance. Social workers in the two counties where he'd lived disagreed about who should be helping him, according to his sister.

Despite efforts of the Ewing family to get Burt Jr. help, his worsening mental health and the multiple missteps in the mental health system led to the 1998 murder of his sister Mary Beth and eventually the attempted murder of his mother as he tried to finish the job he'd started. Last month he was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the attempted murder of his mother in May 2012 in Seven Mile Creek County Park south of St. Peter.

The Ewing case is long and complicated and missteps always look obvious in hindsight. But anyone who examines the chronology of Burt Jr.'s spiraling condition can see that the mental health system failed him and his family. His sister Kristin told The Free Press that at one point when the family was at a loss for how to get him more help, a few staff people recommended his mother cut the strings and let him fall into the gutter because the government wasn't going to help otherwise. Something is seriously wrong if concern and support from loved ones is seen as a hindrance when it comes to helping the mentally ill.

“We were pleading with social workers to get him a case manager," Kristin said. "We kept asking them, 'Does he have to kill someone to get some help?' They told us, 'Yes. He has to do something that severe.'”

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