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Oklahoma Univ Medical Center Hospital Refuses to Admit Autistic Man. Only Choice Jail?

Posted Apr 13 2010 12:00am
Stephen Puckett Stephen Puckett's mother speaks out on her son's status. Click HERE  to watch the video at News OK (embed code isn't working right now.) He was jailed last week following a violent outburst associated with his autism and his seizure disorder. This is autism. Are you aware?  Thank you to Robert Medley of News OK for permission to reprint his article.

An autistic man who has seizures was jailed last week after displaying combative behavior in a hospital emergency room but will not face felony charges, a prosecutor said, calling it a frustrating case of someone needing mental help and not jail.

As his mother watched, Stephen B. Puckett, 28, of The Village, was arrested April 5 at OU Medical Center. Two medical center police officers said he was screaming and swinging his arms, so they tried to restrain Puckett's hands and legs. One officer said he was kicked in the knee twice and another officer was scratched by Puckett on the arm, according to a probable cause affidavit. His violent fit was a result of a neurological disorder he has had since he was an infant, his mother Mary Ann Puckett said. When her son calmed down she was told by the hospital staff her son would not be admitted because of his autism, Mary Ann Puckett said. As officers told him he was going to jail and led him away in handcuffs Stephen Puckett said, "But I'm a good boy, officer," Mary Ann Puckett said she heard him say. "It was absolutely heartbreaking," Mary Ann Puckett said Monday. "I am crying as I talk about it now."

The family's attorney, Tracy Pierce Nester of Edmond, said Stephen Puckett spent three days in the Oklahoma County jail, where his condition deteriorated. Puckett will not be charged with assault and battery on a police officer, said Scott Rowland, first assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County. "
Rowland formally declined to file felony charges requested by OU police after the emergency room incident. "This is just one of those tragic cases where a guy who belongs in the mental health system winds up in the criminal justice system," Rowland said. "It is one of the most frustrating types of cases we see too often." He said his office is frustrated by the number of cases that need attention from mental health providers, not prosecutors. "Our office sees cases in which a criminal act may have been committed but from time to time charges are brought to us and it is clear there are mental health issues. We don't want to place a person like that into the general population of the jail," Rowland said.

Stephen Puckett was kept in a straight jacket and on suicide watch while in Oklahoma County jail, Nester said. Mark Myers, sheriff's office spokesman, said he could not comment on medical treatment provided to Stephen Puckett during the 72-hour jail stay. He said after being booked into the jail Puckett was taken to the medical floor where he remained under observation until he was released Thursday. Mary Ann Puckett said her son has severe autism and had seizures on the weekend of April 3. He has often become violent when he has seizures and has had the condition since he was an infant, Mary Ann Puckett said. She said she has heard from people who have offered support from across the country through social networking sites and through the autism advocacy group Age of Autism," that circulated her son's story on its Web site.

Arrangements were made to move her son to a hospital in Ada that agreed to admit him, but he has not been released from an Oklahoma City crisis center where he is being held in custody of state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Mary Puckett said. A judge agreed to his release from jail to a mental health facility, court records online show.

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