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In 2005, William Bruce, now 25, was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He had attempted suicide a couple of times, thrown his little brother down a flight of stairs, threatened to jump off the rooftop of the family's home in Caratunk, Maine, and pulled a gun on his father.
His parents had tried to get him hospital care after each horrible incident. But the treatment facilities could not keep him against his will. In Maine, unless the patient proves to be an imminent danger to himself or others the facility cannot involuntarily commit him.
In 2006, that happened after William attacked his father, who then called police. William was over 18 so he had the legal right to keep his case file private. His parents were completely cut off. The hospital wouldn't answer any of their questions. His father, Robert Bruce, told me "it was like dealing with the iron curtain."
When William was released last April, he left Riverview Psychiatric Hospital without any medication. His father says his son was never even given a prescription or any follow-up care. Riverview's superintendent would not discuss the Bruce case with us, but said, "Any time someone leaves a care environment and doesn't get connected to the next care environment, then we as a system failed to engage them in treatment."
Robert Bruce isn't sure why his son was released, other than the fact he requested to be released and had the legal right to do so as long as he didn't pose an imminent danger. Doctors determined he did not.
Three weeks after William was released, he chased his mother through the family's home with an axe. She tried to escape, but he cornered her and bludgeoned her to death.
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey of the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center believes a key reason William was released was money.
"The pressure is to discharge patients, to get them out of the hospital. And the reason is to save state money. As long as the individual is in the state hospital, the state is paying most of the cost. If you can transfer the patient, get them out of the hospital, if they then go into an outpatient setting, you're effectively shifting a lot of the cost to the federal government," he said.
All Robert Bruce knows is he lost his wife, and now he's lost his son. William Bruce was found "not criminally responsible" and was returned to Riverview Psychiatric for an "indefinite period of time" -- the same hospital that released him weeks before he murdered his mother.
Does the mental health system seem like it's broken to you?
-- By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent