State Hospital Director Discusses Mental Evaluation Delays

- LITTLE ROCK, AR--An accused child rapist remains on the loose nine days after slipping from his handcuffs.

Anael Castro-Hernandez escaped while waiting for results from a mental evaluation. He's one of roughly 1800 cases handled by the state each year.

The director of the Arkansas State Hospital says the state does not have the resources to handle it's case load and sees an alarming number of orders for mental evaluations that is much higher than states of the same size.

While the average exam takes six to eight weeks, the mental evaluation for Castro-Hernandez took ten months, putting his court case on hold for the results.

The accused child rapist slipped away from deputies hours before from learning whether he was mentally fit to stand trial after a 10 month evaluation period.

"I would say the state has an insufficient number of forensic evaluators to perform the work that needs to be done," says Dr. Steven Domon.

Dr. Domon is the medical director for the state hospital. He says treatment and cases are delayed due to low reimbursement rates and a a lack of qualified personnel.

"It's a fairly daunting task. I can understand where sheriffs become frustrated, attorneys become frustrated, we at the hospital become frustrated because it's a large problem," says Dr. Domon.

Each delay for his mental evaluation meant a longer pre-trial jail stay for Castro-Hernandez.

Wednesday the Pulaski County detention center remained closed due to overcrowding but 115 inmates, 10 percent of the population, were all waiting for mental evaluations.

"The longer you're here, a little over a year that gives you more time to think figure out how the system works. You've gone back and forth for court appearance. You know the system, it provides opportunity that's what it does," says Lt. Carl Minden.

For Dr. Domon, the long wait times and their potential to compromise cases is motivation to push for more money for mental health.

We obtained court documents that show the psychologist did not find a diagnosis of any mental disorder through Castro-Hernandez's mental evaluation, but that report has not been presented due to his escape.

Dr. Domon plans to ask for more funding in the upcoming legislative session to hasten cases.

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