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Systems transformation could have saved Daniel Prude’s life []

Sep 10, 2020

“A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.”— W.E.B. Du Bois

Last week we saw yet another killing of a Black man rise to the nation’s consciousness. Daniel Prude was just 41 years old. He was a father of five adult children who lived in Chicago with his sister, Tameshay. He was beloved by his family.

In March, Daniel experienced a psychotic episode. Fearing for his health and safety, his sister sent him to stay with their brother, Joe, in Rochester, NY. It was there that Daniel sought care in a hospital setting but was released within three hours with no diagnosis. Now widely covered in the news, what happened next involved the criminalization of his mental illness, resulting in a horrific incident of police brutality.

This is a story of what happens when multiple systems put a human life in jeopardy. As a behavioral health foundation, we know that people with serious mental illness are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and are more likely to experience violence than to be perpetrators of it. We also know that, as a Black man, Daniel was at a significantly higher risk of receiving inadequate health care and experiencing violence from police. Rather than understand and address the vulnerabilities that our systems created for Daniel, they were weaponized to endanger, and ultimately take his life.

Our systems can and must be better. Centering the dignity and value of human life must guide how we create policy and build systems of care.

To read the full article by Joe Pyle, click here.