Community Approach Effective When Addressing Mental Illness

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

The recent case of a Travis Alexander, a man who repeatedly exposed himself to children, brings to light the challenges of addressing mental health issues in a legal system that limits responsibility. According to court documents, Mr. Alexander had been arrested more than 40 times and held under Florida’s Baker Act more than 30 times but was freed over and over, so the cycle continued.

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Dr. Justin D’Arienzo, a clinical psychologist and founder of the D’Arienzo Psychological Group, was interviewed by News 4 Jacksonville as an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues. Although Dr. D’Arienzo has never met or treated Mr. Alexander, he did discuss the issues related to schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. “These people go in and out of being dangerous to themselves or dangerous to others at which point they are hospitalized.  After the hospital stabilizes them with medication, these people are discharged. If they don’t have family with the resources to care for them, they are often back on the street until another event happens. Even if they are given medications, these individuals either don’t take them or they run out and don’t get refills, so their symptoms reappear.”

In situations like Mr. Alexander’s, there is a cycle or arrest, brief treatment, release, then rearrests that often continues until, “something bad happens,” explains Dr. D’Arienzo. He goes on to state, “The clear solution would have some intermediate treatment for these individuals and long care treatment for the less severe.”  Unfortunately, these solutions are not available in the Jacksonville community and are not standard practice in this country.

Under court order, Mr. Alexander has been transferred to a mental health facility for a minimum of 6 months. During this time, he will receive treatment and will be reevaluated to determine if he is competent to stand trial. Ultimately, he is likely to be released into the community without a long-term resolution of his mental health challenges. Dr. D’Arienzo believes a community approach offers the best opportunity for success in this situation, and must include Alexander’s family, his doctors, as well as the people living in Murray Hill.

The D’Arienzo Psychological Group is comprised highly trained and skilled specialists who address the needs of individuals, couples, families, and industries to achieve life changing results. If you or a loved one struggles with depression, anger management, work-life balance, marital or family issues, or other challenges, please contact us to learn how we can help.