If this were the only story like this, it would be one thing. But everyone I know in the mental health/corrections connection can tell you dozens more.
Nobody knows what to do about Harold Richards.Since 2004, he has been forced to move at least two dozen times through a nightmarish circuit of hospitals, nursing homes and psychiatric units where he has been medicated, treated to electroshock therapy and controlled with leather restraint -- then released.
At 68, Richards suffers severe mental illness and a form of incurable disease called Lewy body dementia that causes him to hit, bite or even choke people without provocation.
While doctors agree his violent behavior is caused by an illness over which he has no control, they also offer few options for how to take care of him. Each facility where he has been placed has said it isn't prepared to handle a person with his combination of diagnosis and behavior.
His family now faces a dilemma: Their loved one, who served in the Army, helped raise children and has been employed since 1987 as a sanitary engineer for Cook County, must be accused of doing something even more violent before he can get long-term help, and even then there are no assurances that it will be permanent.
"His best way of getting somewhere to stay is being convicted [or accused] of a crime," conceded Pat Knepler, public service administrator for the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health.
"That's not a good option for the family, I realize," he added.
Read on, but be warned. It doesn’t get cheerier.