Amy Kern case: Is mental health system broken? - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Amy Kern case: Is mental health system broken?

By Al Pefley email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The Amy Kern case raises questions about the mental health care system: Is it broken?

Linene, a Jupiter woman who asked that we not use her last name, says her mother is mentally ill and has been Baker Acted hundreds times over the past thirty years but has really never gotten the help she needs.

"It's a failure in the system," Linene said.

She says her mother is bipolar. She lives with a daughter and  she has  been treated and released time and time again, but with no real improvement.  Linene blames the staff at mental health facilities.

"Some of them do care, but some of them don't care. They become numb. I think they are just indifferent. They do their job and that's it," Linene said.

The Amy Kern case shows what can happen when the mentally ill are turned away.

After Kern tried to check herself into a psychiatric hospital in Georgia, authorities say she drove to south Florida and shot and killed two people Saturday. One in Jupiter, another in Palm Beach Gardens.

"I think this is a tragic example of where the system didn't  work," said Marjorie Silberman, chief executive officer of the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County.  Silberman says Palm Beach County has approximately 50,000 mentally ill individuals. 

She says the county's mental health system doesn't get the funding it needs.  "The resources are tapped. There's just so much money to go around. Just so many beds available," Silberman told us. 

Palm Beach County has seven facilities that treat the acutely mentally ill, including Columbia Hospital and St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm beach, Oakwood Center, and the V-A Medical Center in Riviera Beach to name a few.

Linene says something has to be done, and quickly, to make sure mental health workers do their job and fix a person's problem, before simply treating and releasing them. Otherwise, we'll get another person like Kern who goes too far.

"There has to be people responsible for doing their job," Linene said.

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