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Lawyer Seeks Contempt Motion After Man Placed In State Care Spends Weeks In Jail

The attorney for a man who spent weeks at the Cumberland County jail after being placed under state care for mental illness has filed for a motion for contempt against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.The Portland Press-Herald reports that on Nov. 9, a judge found Joseph Lluvera, who has several mental health diagnoses, incompetent to stand trial. But his attorney, Sarah Branch, says he was still in jail on Nov. 28.

“During that time, he was kept in what's known as the special housing unit, otherwise known as the SHU,” Branch says. ”He was not receiving mental health treatment, he didn't understand why he was in jail, and in spite of explaining it to him, he really struggled.”

Lluvera has since been placed at the Riverview Psychiatric Center, and the Maine Attorney General's Office, representing DHHS in court last Thursday, says the issue is now moot.

Branch says the state should still be held responsible for the time during which it was in violation of the order. She says Lluvera's case is part of a much larger issue, and that the sorts of waits to which he was subject are getting more and more common.

“And when you have something that is so important to individuals with mental illness, which is their treatment, to have such a waitlist become acceptable in our community in that we just say, ‘Oh he's on a waitlist.’” she says. “At some point we must ask, ‘Why?’”

Both the Attorney General's Office and DHHS declined comment.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.