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TRI In The News

Lou Gehrigs-Type Disease Gets Man 5 Days on Mental Hold

In Waynesboro, Virginia, one can apparently get arrested for being sick.

That’s according to a lawsuit filed by the Rutherford Institute on behalf of a 37-year-old man who was diagnosed by police and an “unlicensed mental health screener” as having “mental health issues,” even though his problem was only with cerebellar ataxia, a neurological condition.

“By giving government officials the power to declare individuals mentally ill and detain them against their will without first ensuring that they are actually trained to identify such illness, the government has opened the door to a system in which involuntary detentions can be used to make people disappear,” said the institute’s president, John W. Whitehead.

“Indeed, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union often used psychiatric hospitals as prisons in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally,” he said.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia names the Valley Community Services Board, VCSB “intake clinician” Jenna Rhodes and police officers David Shaw, Robert Dean and D.L. Williams as defendants.

It alleges that Gordon Goines, a 37-year-old disabled man from Waynesboro who has been diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, a neurological condition similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease, was noticed by police to have slurred speech and an unsteady gait.

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