Attorney Wants Maine DHHS Commissioner Found In Contempt

Dec 17, 2018

The attorney for a man who spent weeks at the Cumberland County Jail after being placed under state care for mental illness has filed a motion for contempt against the acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The Portland Press Herald reports that a judge found Joseph Lluvera, who has several mental health diagnoses, incompetent to stand trial on Nov. 9. 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. 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,” she says. “Basically anyone with any sort of common sense can understand that anyone who struggles with the diagnoses that my client has — he has some paranoid issues, schizophrenia, he has a bunch of other diagnoses — that being isolated in that way without any sort of mental health treatment is only going to exacerbate the problem.”

Lluvera has since been placed in 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. And she says she hopes this case will send a message to the department that its waiting lists for admission to state psychiatric facilities are excessively long.

Both the attorney general’s office and DHHS declined comment.