There’s no shame in suffering mental illness any more than suffering cancer. But then, that only applies if you’re the right Wright. And if you’re not, try telling the cop and empathetic crisis management person otherwise. After all, who listens to a crazy person?
[63-year-old Eugene] Wright said he was walking to his car near his home after completing his shift at an auto parts store on June 15 when two Meadville police officers and a representative of the crisis center confronted him.
The officers told him he’d been at his orthopedic doctor’s office that morning and made threats to harm himself and others.
They were just there to help. What could possibly be wrong with wanting to help?
Mr. Wright said they had the wrong guy.
But he said they refused to check his identity or call his employer, then handcuffed him and drove him to Meadville Medical Center.
There, medical personnel said they were going to inject him with drugs. He protested, saying he hadn’t threatened anyone and that they were making a mistake.
Isn’t it sad, people with mental illness claiming they aren’t mentally ill? Don’t you feel for them? Don’t you want to help them? What sort of monster wouldn’t want to save Wright from himself?
But everyone refused to verify his identity, he said. And if he didn’t cooperate, he said, the police officers threatened to hold him down so the drugs could be injected by a nurse. He didn’t want to be restrained so, after 10 minutes of arguing, he let the nurse inject him.
After that, according to the complaint, “things were starting to get pretty fuzzy.”
Eventually, his wife came to the hospital, and everybody finally realized it was all a big, silly mistake. Hoo boy! Can you believe it?
Later, according to the suit, he found out that the emergency room checked patient records and realized that it was the other Eugene Wright who had the doctor’s office visit that morning.
The ER staff learned that when the orthopedic doctor’s staff called the crisis center that morning about the threats, the crisis center supervisor didn’t ask for Eugene Wright’s birthdate.
“So they made the incorrect assumption that the patient who was making threats was [the plaintiff],” the suit says.
And they felt really, really bad about this crazy mistake. Even the officer who seized him felt terrible about it.
The officer, who knew the plaintiff Mr. Wright, said he assumed they had the right Mr. Wright once he heard the name and didn’t verify the address with the doctor’s office.
The officer apologized to the daughter and left the hospital, according to the suit.
In fact, they felt so bad that they tried to make it up to Wright.
Mr. Wright said the hospital later apologized to him and gave him a $50 gift card for a restaurant. The crisis center also apologized and gave him a $25 Walmart gift card.
He used the gift cards. He wasn’t that crazy, unless the food at the restaurant sucked, but there’s no information to that effect. So all’s well that ends in a silly story? Hardly.
Fortunately, it appears that whatever psychotropic drugs were pumped into the system of the wrong Wright didn’t harm him. Fortunately, Wright didn’t find himself on the wrong side of the good guy curve, being confronted by police and a really well-intended crisis center official-person.
After all, the person they were looking for had made threats, and people who make threats can be dangerous, and dangerous people scare the cops and scared cops want to make it home for dinner. It’s not as if a cop wants to trade dinner with the kids for the welfare of a crazy person. Or, frankly, anyone.
But it’s somewhat unfair to blame just the cops here. Indeed, the cops may well be the least blameworthy, since the call from the hospital ortho went to the crisis center, and it was the crisis center supervisor who didn’t bother to get a date of birth before sending out the cavalry to save the poor mentally ill guy.
Small mistakes, careless assumptions, and the wrong Wright ends up with a needle. Thankfully, it wasn’t a bullet. I don’t doubt the crisis center had the best of intentions, even if their execution sucked, but having good intentions isn’t good enough. The only remaining question is whether the gift cards will suffice as an accord and satisfaction. After all, they didn’t kill him. This time.