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Law Suit: students being sent to the emergency room because of behavioral issues, lack of mental health services

Trudy Tomlinson Special to the AmNews | 4/9/2013, 1:33 p.m.

According to a Press Release, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is filing a lawsuit against the City in State Supreme Court today. He is demanding the city to release data on students who were sent to the emergency room because of behavioral problems at school.

The Press Release states that most schools do not provide adequate mental health services. Because of that, they are resorting to 911 to deal with behavioral outburst.

Thousands of students who should have been disciplined and treated in a school setting are being sent to the emergency room at the parents' expense. This results in clogged hospitals and leaves the children traumatized.

"This is wasteful, hurtful and wrong,' said de Blasio in the Press Release. "As a parent, I'd be furious if one of my kids was sent to an E.R. because the school didn't know how to handle them. This is a disturbing reality for thousands of kids and parents--and it has to stop."

"Instead of opening the books to give a full accounting of how and why so many kids end up at the hospital, the City is circling the wagons and trying to hide the problem. We won't rest until we get to the bottom of it so we can fix this," he added.

The Public Advocate's lawsuit is an Article 78 action against the City for failing to comply with the New York City Charter in releasing documents to the Public Advocate's Office. The Press Release states that in July 2012, de Blasio requested information on the use of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in schools from 2005-2010.

Requested information included the age, ethnicity and behavioral problem of each child, as well as the amount billed to parents after each emergency room visit.

After the City failed to comply, de Blasio joined forces with Queens and Bronx Legal Services in a legal action to secure the information. After nine months, the City still failed to produce documents to the Public Advocate's Office, which is the reason for the lawsuit. Attorney Jesse Strauss is representing de Blasio in the litigation.

"We thank the Public Advocate for supporting the right of all New Yorkers to information about potential abuse of emergency medical services,' said Tara Foster, Senior Staff Attorney at Queens Legal Services. "Open and transparent government is particularly essential when the right of children to receive a sound public education is implicated."

According to the Department of Health, only about one-third of schools provide mental health services for students with behavioral issues. Because of this shortage of on-site mental health services, administrators are left to call 911 when they are unable to handle a student's behavioral problems.

Between 2005 and 2010, the DOE made approximately 20,000 calls to the EMS. The agency has refused to identify the number of calls that resulted from behavioral issues, stated the Press Release

"As the parent of a special-needs child, it's painful to think of my child or someone else's going through this," said Margarita Mendoza, board member of Make the Road New York.

"We count on our schools to look out for our kids, but the shortage of mental health services means that schools are now outsourcing behavioral issues to 911. Sending a child to the E.R. for acting out punishes parents and hurts kids--it has to stop," she added.

Between 2005 and 2010, the DOE made approximately 20,000 calls to the EMS. The agency has refused identify the number of calls that resulted from behavioral issues.