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YOUNGSTOWN Mother: I will work for changes in system



Published: Tue, November 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio doesn't have state-run residential treatment facilities for the mentally ill.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Michelle Colon said she'll keep pushing for Ohio to provide mental health facilities for juveniles, even though it's too late to help her own daughter.

"I can't help her, but I'm going to help somebody else so they don't have to go through what we have," said Colon, of Austintown.

Her daughter, Jackie Colon, 15, is at a residential treatment facility in Oklahoma City, Okla. She was moved there a month ago after being held in the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center since December.

Authorities suspect Jackie of throwing a 3-month-old baby out a second-floor window onto the concrete driveway below, then going outside and stabbing the infant nearly 60 times.

Search for facility: In March, she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial for the killing and was ordered into a residential treatment facility. There are no state-run facilities in Ohio, so local officials were forced to look outside the state, finally finding the one in Oklahoma.

There are private facilities in Ohio, but judges cannot force them to accept patients.

Judge Theresa Dellick of juvenile court has said she intends to meet with local legislators about finding a solution to the problem. A meeting was scheduled in September but was canceled because some lawmakers were unable to attend. It has not been rescheduled.

Hardship: Michelle Colon said that it's upsetting that there was no help available for her daughter and that she is forced to travel so far to see her.

The fact that she was ordered by the juvenile court to pay child support, which helps pay for Jackie's care, compounds the problem because she can barely afford the travel costs, she said.

"This child is my life," she said of Jackie. "I love Jackie with all my heart. I will do anything for her."

Lawsuits: Michelle Colon filed a lawsuit in June against several city and county agencies, Forum Health and D & amp;E Counseling Center, alleging that they were negligent in their care of Jackie. Her attorney, Mark S. Colucci, later voluntarily dismissed the suit.

A similar suit, filed earlier this year in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court by the mother of the infant victim, was dismissed. The judge ruled that the officials and doctors were immune from such lawsuits.

Colucci said he plans to refile Michelle Colon's suit this week in U.S. District Court because the immunity does not apply under federal law.

bjackson@vindy.com




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