An Alameda couple whose son is earlier this year are at the center of an article in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.
Their son's history points up tragic flaws in California's mental health system, say Candy and Al Dewitt, who are among those pushing for reforms that would compel seriously mentally ill and potentially dangerous persons to accept medical treatment.
The Dewitts' son, Daniel, 23, was diagnosed as schizophrenic and hospitalized repeatedly on an involuntary basis, according to the Chronicle article. Each time, he was released back into the community. Most recently, Daniel was released from the John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro on Dec. 13, 2011, after fighting the hold and appearing at a special hearing, the Chronicle says.
Two months later, on Feb. 18, Daniel was arrested after the killing of Peter Cukor, 67, in Berkeley. He has been and is being held at Napa State Hospital.
Some mental health advocates, including the Dewitts, believe the tragedy could have been averted by more extensive use of Laura's Law. The law, named for a Nevada County murder victim, allows court-ordered outpatient treatment for those who, like Daniel, have been hospitalized repeatedly and who have a record of violence.
You may read the complete Chronicle article and see an accompanying photo gallery here.
Candy Dewitt was also among those interviewed for a June 22 New York Times Magazine article on involuntary treatment for the mentally ill.
For friends' memories of Daniel's years as a student at St. Joseph's Elementary School and Alameda High School, see Before the Break: Highs and Hopes of Daniel Dewitt.