- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s largest county has sued a state-run mental health hospital after it denied a criminal defendant despite a judge’s order to admit him.

The Minnehaha County Public Defender’s Office filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of 18-year-old Sampson Balu, who was denied admittance into Yankton’s Human Services Center last month. County officials were told while transporting Balu to the hospital that there was no “bed space” available, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/2n0XXiY ) reported.

The lawsuit said the hospital refuses to say when bed space will be available and argues that the center doesn’t have authority to refuse a commitment ordered by a judge.

Balu is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after a fight at Roosevelt High School in May. A judge concluded in February that he wasn’t fit for trial based on a psychiatric evaluation.

The psychiatrist who evaluated Balu recommended he be tested at the hospital for a major neurocognitive disorder. Court records show Balu has a developmental disability and an IQ lower than 70, which the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities says suggests limited intellectual functioning.

“If they aren’t able to deal with someone, they need to get the training to work with people,” said Phyllis Arends, Sioux Falls executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Closing the door is not the answer to the problem. It is their duty to treat people.”

The goal of sending criminal defendants for psychiatric rehabilitation is to reorient patients to where they understand the charges against them and can partake in their defense.

The South Dakota Department of Social Services, which oversees the hospital, declined to comment. The Public Defender’s Office also declined to comment citing pending litigation.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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