St. Louis, Mo. – The Missouri Association of the Deaf and 13 deaf residents have filed suit against the Missouri Department of Mental Health. The lawsuit, filed in federal court today, claims the department has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing mental health services to the deaf.
The plaintiffs say the department needs to hire more qualified sign language interpreters and train psychiatrists and other therapists about deaf culture.
"Several states have programs where they provide not extensive, but a little bit of training so mental health professionals learn about deaf culture and how mental illnesses affect deaf people," says Kenneth Chackes, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys.
Chackes sited three recent suicides by deaf residents of St. Louis. He says DMH provides little or no help for those who are deaf and suffering from depression, sometimes placing clients in facilities where no one knows sign language.
An official with the Department of Mental Health said he could not comment because the matter was under litigation.