In A Small Pennsylvania City, A Mental Crisis Call To 911 Turns Tragic : Shots

Rulennis Munoz (center right) outside Lancaster Courthouse Oct. 14, after learning that the police officer who fatally shot her brother had been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Lancaster County District Attorney. Her mother, Miguelina Peña, and her attorney Michael Perna (far right) stood by.

Brett Sholtis/WITF


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Brett Sholtis/WITF

Rulennis Muñoz remembers the phone ringing on Sept. 13. Her mother was calling from the car, frustrated. Rulennis could also hear her brother Ricardo shouting in the background. Her mom told her that Ricardo, who was 27, wouldn’t take his medication. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia five years earlier.

Ricardo lived with his mother in Lancaster, Pa., but earlier that day he had been over at Rulennis’ house across town. Rulennis remembers that her brother had been having what she calls “an episode” that morning. Ricardo had become agitated because his phone charger was missing. When she found it for him, he insisted it wasn’t the same one.

Rulennis knew that her brother was in crisis and that he needed psychiatric care. But she also knew from experience that there were few emergency resources available for Ricardo unless a judge deemed him a threat to himself or others.

After talking with her mom, Rulennis called a county crisis intervention line to see if Ricardo could be committed for inpatient care. It was Sunday afternoon. The crisis worker told her to call the police to see if the officers could petition a judge to force Ricardo to go to the hospital for psychiatric treatment, in what’s called an involuntary commitment. Reluctant to call 911, and wanting more information, Rulennis dialed the non-emergency police number.

Meanwhile, her mother, Miguelina Peña, was back in her own neighborhood. Her other daughter, Deborah, lived only a few doors down. Peña started telling Deborah what was going on. Ricardo was becoming aggressive; he had punched the inside of the car. Back on their block, he was still yelling and upset, and couldn’t be calmed. Deborah called 911 to get help for Ricardo. She didn’t know that her sister was trying the non-emergency line.

The problems and perils of calling 911 for help with mental health

A recording and transcript of the 911 call show that the dispatcher gave Deborah three options: police, fire or ambulance. Deborah wasn’t sure, so she said “police.” Then she went on to explain that Ricardo was being aggressive, had a mental illness and needed to go to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Ricardo had moved on, walking up the street to where he and his mother lived. When the dispatcher questioned Deborah further, she also mentioned that Ricardo was trying “to break into” his mom’s house. She didn’t mention that Ricardo also lived in that house. She did mention that her mother “was afraid” to go back home with him.

The Muñoz family has since emphasized that Ricardo was never a threat to them. However, by the time police got the message, they believed they were responding to

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Families sue Pennsylvania nursing home in wake of 73 COVID deaths

The families said staff failed to take proper measures to stem the outbreak.

The families of some of the 73 residents residents who have died from COVID-19 while living at a Pennsylvania nursing home have filed a lawsuit against the facility, accusing it of recklessly handling the virus outbreak.

The families of 10 deceased residents teamed up with the families of five current residents at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in a lawsuit against the nursing home, saying staff failed to take proper measures to stem the outbreak.

“They show clear evidence of poor infection control, poor training, poor supervision, transparency problems, cross-contamination, lack of supplies — it goes on and on,” Bob Daley, one of the attorneys representing the families, said Thursday. “What happened at Brighton was nothing short of a tragedy. … Brighton as an entity systematically failed its residents.”

The lawsuit names Brighton Rehab’s owners and its medical director and accuses leaders of “managerial and operational negligence, carelessness, recklessness and willful and wanton conduct,” according to the complaint. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

PHOTO: Rob Peirce speaks during a news conference about a lawsuit filed against Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center for its response to the Covid-19 outbreaks in the facility in Beaver, Pa., Oct. 21, 2020.

Rob Peirce speaks while surrounded by other lawyers involved and family members of residents during a news conference about a lawsuit filed against Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center for its response to the Covid-19 outbreaks in the facility in Beaver, Pa., Oct. 21, 2020.

Brighton allegedly failed to separate infected residents from the general population, allowed infected workers to continue working and shared misinformation about the outbreak to family members and health officials, according to the suit.

Lawyers for the residents also claimed Brighton was severely understaffed during the pandemic, which forced workers to “cut corners while struggling to care for hundreds of residents during the pandemic,” according to the suit.

In response to the lawsuit, a Brighton spokesperson denied the claims and said the facility followed the guidance of local governmental health officials throughout the pandemic.

“Right now, the facility’s sole focus remains on ensuring the health and well-being of all residents and staff,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The facility has been

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Pennsylvania Department Of Health

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