Indiana’s disability rights watchdog is suing the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration over allegations the agency violated federal law by failing to provide mental health services to incarcerated people deemed unfit for trial.
The Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission — a state entity created to enforce federal disability laws — recruited the ACLU of Indiana to file its lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The lawsuit claims that the state’s social services administration and its mental health branch, the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, have “grossly insufficient capacity” to give incarcerated people who can’t stand trial the mental health assistance they are entitled to under state law.
When reached by IndyStar, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration declined to comment on the allegations.
There are at least 18 people in the Marion County Adult Detention Center who are awaiting assignment to a state mental health facility because a judge determined they lack the capacity to understand court proceedings or participate in their own defense, according to the complaint.
“However, these clients had not been placed as of May 5, 2022, because there was not sufficient space in the institutions,” the legal complaint reads. One client had been waiting since September 2021. Four others had been waiting since January 2022.
A long wait list
Over the past five months, 16 people in the Marion County Adult Detention Center who were deemed incompetent had been transferred to state hospitals or other facilities, according to the complaint.
Persons charged with serious crimes are sent to the Isaac Ray Unit at Logansport State Hospital, but that unit currently has a wait list of more than 40 people. According to the ACLU, it’s not the only facility that is unable to meet demand.
“There are severe bed shortages in the other Division of Mental Health and Addiction institutions that provide restoration services and there are an inadequate number of operational community or facility-based restoration services with the capacity to meet the demand to timely provide the services,” the complaint reads. Attorneys do not identify the other institutions.
As a result, incarcerated people in Marion County “languish” without the mental health help they need, the lawsuit claims.
The complaint says other counties are likely experiencing the same problem, though attorneys do not provide other examples.
The Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission is asking a judge to declare the state agencies violated detainees’ constitutional rights and federal disability law. They’re also asking for an injunction forcing the agencies to immediately place the incarcerated people with service providers.
Call IndyStar courts reporter Johnny Magdaleno at 317-273-3188 or email him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @IndyStarJohnny