Boone County mental health

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COLUMBIA - A mental health advocate and mother of a man with paranoid schizophrenia spoke to the public Tuesday night at the Boone County government building.

Joan Becker's son was diagnosed after he murdered his high school football coach in Iowa.

She said a lack of communication among all parties involved (health care professionals, law enforcement, her family) contributed to her son's worsening condition. 

"Why can't you communicate from one hospital to another about that history? Why not? That's ridiculous, this is a person's life in their hands," Becker said. 

She also said law enforcement failed to tell her about any resources that might have been available. 

The speech was sponsored by the Boone County Commission, and District II commissioner Janet Thompson (D) was in attendance. 

She said mental health training for law enforcement is needed, but not all responsibility should be put on law officers.

"This necessitates a community response, and we need to look to see what are the barriers toward really creating that way in which we can provide those resources," she said. 

Boone County's detention director, Capt. Keith Hoskins, was in attendance but declined to comment.

In a question and answer segment following the talk, he expressed frustration with the misuse of HIPAA laws. The laws are intended to protect patient privacy, but he said their overuse can stymie law enforcement knowledge of mental health suspects.

Becker said she found other issues with health care professionals. She said a number of psychiatrists and other health care professionals were either unavailable or unwilling to hear what she had to say about her son's condition.

Administrative psychiatrist Lisa Thomas said psychiatrists do not have to divulge any information on patients, but should be willing to receive it.

"That is part of our responsibility, to have the most information to inform your diagnosis," she said. 

Becker said talking about the disease with her family, along with her religion, helped her get through the "storm."