Brown: End in sight for mentally ill woman still in jail

SHARE Brown: End in sight for mentally ill woman still in jail

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// ]]>Veronica Gorlicki, the mentally ill woman who I told you two months ago, doesn’t belong in Cook County Jail, is still there.

Gorlicki has been in custody something like 84 days now on a trespassing charge, although the end is mercifully in sight.

A Cook County judge this week declared Gorlicki mentally unfit to stand trial and ordered her transferred to a state mental health facility within 30 days, which is where she does belong.

OPINION

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// ]]>By that time, it will be close to four months spent in jail for an individual whose mental health problems are so glaringly obvious that nobody could miss them.

Gorlicki’s case is a good example of what Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is talking about when he complains the jail is being used as a mental hospital.

Dart thinks there ought to be a better way to get mental health treatment to the people who need it than running them through the criminal justice system, which is costing you a lot of money and not doing them much good.

I agree. The question is how to do that.

Gorlicki, 41, was arrested March 19 by Des Plaines police for hanging out at a trailer park where she once had a male friend.

He died during her last stay in a mental hospital, and she either doesn’t understand or can’t come to grips with that fact. So she keeps showing up there and making a nuisance of herself.

Nuisance is a good way to sum up Gorlicki’s long criminal history, which includes 28 minor arrests spanning her adult lifetime, interrupted only by stays in jail and mental hospitals. Gorlicki, who grew up in Buffalo Grove but is now homeless, has been found mentally unfit on 10 occasions.

A psychologist testified in court Monday that Gorlicki suffers from bi-polar disorder with psychotic features and “delusional affectation” but said she could benefit from treatment with psychotropic medications.

At least, that’s what I think he said.While he was testifying, an agitated Gorlicki kept loudly talking over him.

“Mass murderer, give it up,” she told him, then as an aside to the judge, “I’m a very famous movie star. I’ve now had nine funerals. This is my courtroom. If I sign that, they’ll come in and start murdering people.”

A courtroom deputy stood within arm’s reach at all times, although the consensus is that Gorlicki’s mental problems pose a greater risk to herself than anybody else.

I can understand how Des Plaines police might not have seen any better way to deal with Gorlicki than to put her into the system and let the courts sort it out, although I wonder if they tried.

I’ve been trying to put that question to the Des Plaines police chief, but he doesn’t return my calls.

Cara Smith, Dart’s chief problem solver, thinks the solution is to give police more options for dealing with someone like Gorlicki than to file charges. That could start by training them in alternative forms of crisis intervention including involuntary hospitalization.

Others say it would help if the court system reacted more nimbly when a seriously mentally ill person is arrested by steering the case toward a faster resolution.

For their part, judges want more placement options than referring mentally ill defendants to an overburdened state mental hospital system, some place other than jail that would still satisfy everyone’s safety needs.

The state will be able to hold Gorlicki in a psychiatric facility for one year, at which time they’ll have to release her again.

Then, unless we’ve made some changes, this entire cycle undoubtedly will repeat itself. Gorlicki will stop taking her meds, do something inappropriate, get arrested and land back in jail until the court system decides what to do with her.

And we call her crazy.

Follow Mark Brown on Twitter: @MarkBrownCST

Tweets by @MarkBrownCST

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