Suit alleges state cuts contributed to teen's death

Suit alleges state cuts contributed to teen's death
Published: Jul. 30, 2013 at 10:43 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 6:32 PM HST
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A federal court lawsuit alleges that the state contributed to the death of a 14-year-old boy.

The suit says Roosevelt High School student Charlie Lee was depressed and suicidal when the state began to reduce mental health services for the teen.

"This young man had acted out and cut himself on prior occasions and threatened to kill himself previously and then ended up ultimately doing it," said his family's attorney Eric Seitz.

"On a couple of occasions, services were denied, intensive care services. Then they were provided belatedly. Then they were cut short."

The suit alleges that Lee had been in and out of treatment centers for over four years and that the state often provide inadequate mental health services and even cut them off.

He was last sent to Home Maluhia near King Street in October 2011 for not attending school. But the state sent him home and cut mental health services two weeks later. He hanged himself the day he was sent home.

DOE officials had no immediate comment, saying they haven't been served yet. But experts say the case calls attention to a growing reluctance on the part of the DOE to provide special education services.

"There's a lot of problems in the special education system," said Louis Erteschik, executive director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center.

"There's a lot of problems with the lack of appropriate services not being provided. And there has been a lot of resistance on the part of the DOE."

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