Report Considers How Arizona Heat Fuels Crimes Committed by the Mentally Ill


When temperatures rise in the summer months in Arizona, people who suffer from mental illnesses often experience an uptick in problems.

A recent report in AZCentral highlighted how the Arizona heat may fuel crimes committed by the mentally ill in the state.

The reporters spoke to Teresa Jimenez Dupee, a woman from Yuma who hears voices in her head when the mercury rises. She spoke of her elevated problems during the summer.

Arizona heat fuels a mental heath crisis in the state
Mental illnesses is exacerbated as summer heat takes hold

Yuma is one of the hottest places in Arizona. It is often listed as one of the hottest places in the United States.

According to Sylvia Flores who runs the Yuma office of Hope Inc. a non-profit health center that helps people with a range of mental illnesses including bipolar disorders and schizophrenia, the summer heat has a detrimental effect on center users. She said heat takes an additional toll on people who suffer from mental illness.

The summer can pose a grave danger to the mentally ill, particularly those who are homeless, and it may have an impact on crime.

Out of people who died of heat-associated causes in Maricopa County in 2016, around 15 percent suffered from mental illness, according to an analysis of autopsy reports by Arizona Republic.

The Arizona heat appears to be contributing to the deaths of mentally ill people. Just over 4 percent of people who died across the nation that year had a medical history of schizophrenia. Nationally, 1.1 percent of the U.S. adult population has schizophrenia, the National Institute of Mental Health states.

Dr. David Eisenman, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told AZCentral, certain medications including antipsychotics and antidepressants can block the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature. This means people with mental illnesses may face a higher danger of heatstroke and other illnesses related to rising temperatures.

Dupee who takes the antidepressant desvenlafaxine and the antipsychotic haloperidol said she has suffered heatstroke on four different occasions.

Yuma has a homeless community by the Colorado River. It’s particularly vulnerable in the summer when the heat becomes unbearable.

A report in PsychCentral pointed to a potential link between hot weather and increased violent crime.

A team of researchers suggested violent rates are consistently higher near the equator compared to other parts of the world because of hot temperatures.

PsychCentral developed a new model, called CLASH (CLimate Aggression, and Self-control in Humans).

The research went beyond the theory that heat is linked to aggressive behavior. It indicated a hot climate combined with less variation in seasonal temperatures can lead to more hopelessness and less self-control, contributing to aggression and violence.

The model was outlined in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Lead author Dr. Paul van Lange, a professor of psychology in Amsterdam said people living in hot climates have less hope for the future.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney has helped mentally ill people charged with crimes for decades. We are aware of some of the factors that can contribute to mental stress such as extreme heat. Please call our attorney for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health | Tagged , |

Guilty Except Insane Plea


On January 29, 2017, an ambulance containing four people was pulling in to the Phoenix Baptist Hospital in Phoenix when L.S. pulled up alongside the ambulance and fired a handgun into the patient compartment and drove away. Luckily, no one was injured.

About 2 hours later police were called to a Circle K in Phoenix where L.S. had fired a gun in to the air while others in the vicinity looked on. Although L.S. resisted and fought police, they were able to disarm and detain L.S. without and serious injury to L.S., police, or others.

L.S.’s actions were the product of a prolonged psychotic episode caused by a serious undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. He was experiencing hallucinations and did not understand the dangerousness of his actions. L.S. was charged with a total of 14 felonies and could have spent as much as 70 years or more in prison.

Today, with the help of Bernardo Garcia, L.S. entered a plea of Guilty Except Insane in the Maricopa County Superior court. Guilty Except Insane pleas are notoriously difficult to litigate in Arizona and only rarely see completion. Today, rather than 70 years or more in the Arizona Department of Corrections, L.S. will spend no time in prison and instead spend some time at the Arizona State Hospital. There he will receive the highest quality and most comprehensive care, eventually culminating in his full reintegration to society.

Today’s victory is the result of countless hours of hard work and Mr. Garcia’s unique expertise in the area of criminal defense for those with mental illness. Mr. Garcia has unparalleled experience with Guilty Except Insane pleas in the State of Arizona, with successful cases in four Arizona counties (Maricopa, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma).

Mental illness is often misunderstood in the criminal justice system, and it takes a unique set of skills to provide the best representation for our society’s most vulnerable people. Bernardo Garcia has over 25 years of experience as an attorney and unmatched skill as counsel for defendants who suffer from mental illnesses.

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health |

Arizona is the Second Worst State for Addressing Mental Health Issues


Access to mental health services is patchy across the nation. This is particularly the case in Arizona. A recent survey found Arizona is the second worst state in the nation for addressing mental health issues.

The information was revealed in a study from the nonprofit Mental Health America. Mental Health America analyzed the extent of mental illness in each state and the District of Columbia utilizing statistics on adults and youth with a diagnosed condition, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse issues.

The Phoenix New Times reported on how the group researched the ease of access to care by looking at the percentage of adults and young people with mental illness who reported not receiving treatment for their conditions, having unmet needs, and not being able to see a doctor due to the expense.

addressing mental health issues in Arizona

Arizona has a poor record for mental health services

Only Oregon ranked lower than Arizona in terms of access to mental health care. The best access was found in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and South Dakota.

The New Times report noted some improvements in Arizona. Among experts in behavioral health, Arizona’s Medicaid program is seen as a model for the integration of mental health and substance abuse services. Arizona agreed to improve its services for people who don’t qualify for Medicaid and have severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia in 2014.

Michael Shafer, president of Mental Health America’s Arizona chapter, told the New Times Arizona’s main failing is in relation to those with less severe and more common conditions such as depression or anxiety.

He said Arizona lacks primary-care physicians who can screen for mental illness and refer patients to specialists before the disease has progressed much too far.

The neglect of people with low-level mental illnesses means they are not getting help. The conditions are becoming more serious before intervention and they may end up in the criminal justice system.

Writing in the Arizona Capitol Times, Scott Cummings, state president of Care1st Health Plan Arizona, warned the suicide rate in Arizona is 60 percent higher than the national average. He said there are many contributing factors like drugs, drugs or access to care.

Cummings called for the state to focus its efforts on integrating screening for mental illnesses into primary and specialty care visits to allow the early identification of those with signs and symptoms of physical and behavioral health conditions to be treated in a holistic way.

The deficiencies in Arizona’s mental health provisions mean many defendants are not getting their needs met before they reach the criminal justice system. An experienced Arizona attorney with a long track record of helping the mentally ill can assist you or a family member after your arrest. Please contact the Garcia Law Firm today for a consultation.

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged |

New Regulations Added for Sober Living Homes in Phoenix


The valley of the sun has seen a recent spike in sober living homes. However, the increased number of homes are causing some issues with surprised neighbors, forcing them to take action.

Currently, there is no way to tell or know for sure if a sober living or recovery home is in your neighborhood or plans to come to your area. This is because there is no database that keeps track of these homes. Furthermore, this means that there is also no one regulating these home.

Photo by Sarah Jane on Pexels

Why a spike in sober living and recovery homes? It is reported that heroin and other drugs are becoming easier to find and are now cheaper. Many people need treatment after they become addicted and these homes are a source for it,  but since some group homes are not regulated, the sober living residents get taken advantage of. Often times, these homes will take the money of the residents, but not make them adhere to any rules. So in the end, they are actually not getting the help they need to get on the road to recovery.

Since no one is really in charge of overseeing or managing these homes, neighbors in these areas have been looking for ways to change that. A group of residents came together and was able to get the Phoenix City Council to pass new regulations on sober living and recovery homes. These regulations include a $1,500 licensing fee for homes and spacing rules, meaning that these homes cannot be too close to each other, occupying the same area. There is no official list of homes, so enforcing these new regulations could be a challenge. However, the Arizona Recovery Housing Association has stepped up and is trying to regulate a handful of sober living and recovery homes.


Source: ABC 15

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Probation | Tagged , , |

Is Working Affecting Your Mental Health for a Compensation Claim?


We all know jobs can be stressful. The daily pressures can lead to physical issues and even psychological issues. Especially when an employer happens to conduct atrocious behavior. You may even be able to have a workman’s compensation claim for the mental illness caused by your employer and workplace.

Who is eligible?

Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

All employees have the right to file a legal claim or workman’s compensation claim if they think they received an injury while at work. Most employers usually have workman’s compensation coverage or some type of state funded coverage. If you have any serious injuries from an incident at work, you should file a workman’s compensation claim immediately. If you have been showing signs or symptoms of depression, anxiety or any other mental illness, you still may be able to file a workman’s compensation claim as well. Sometimes the signs are subtle, but it still leaves a big impact on the mental and physical health of the employee.

Providing evidence

When filing a claim, you must be able to provide sufficient evidence including documentation from a licensed psychologist. All of your evidence must be clear and convincing. It can be difficult to prove that your mental illness was a direct result caused by your employer or workplace. It still can be done though. Document any events to help prove your case and always keep track of dates, times, any witnesses and other important details.

You might have a case if…

If you feel you have been impacted so much by the behavior of your employer or the environment of your workplace that it has caused a mental illness, you might have a case. You should speak with an employment or mental health attorney to know your rights. Common causes could include belittling, intimidation, yelling during work or aggravating conditions in the workplace that could include timers, monitoring and excessive control.

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , |

Benefits of Using a Criminal Defense Lawyer Specializing in Mental Health


If you are involved in a legal case which includes issues surrounding mental health, it is important to use a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the area to represent you. Not only will these attorneys be more compassionate and understanding of your situation, they are also specialists in the field and have more detailed knowledge about mental illness than the typical criminal defense attorney. Keep reading to learn more. 

photo by Kat Smith

A More Compassionate Understanding 

Legal battles centered around victims of mental illness can cause a wide range of emotions for those involved, and this may include close friends and family members. Having an educated lawyer who is experienced in the field will help ensure clients that their attorney has experience helping other people who have found themselves in similar situations. A lawyer who is actively compassionate towards your case, and mental illness in general, will most likely be better equipped to handle and sympathize with your individual situation.

Experts in the Field

When isn’t it a good idea to hire an expert in the field? You wouldn’t hire a foot surgeon to perform open-heart surgery, so why would you hire a random attorney to represent your mental health case? Hiring an attorney who specializes in mental health will help you in your case because they will be the most informed about the issues and will have access to up-to-date information.

When mental health issues are involved, there may be more complicated paperwork to fill out and give to the courtroom. If an attorney is not aware of specific laws surrounding mental health in the state, they may be missing out on giving their clients a better final verdict. Attorneys who are already familiar with all of these laws may be able to save time while giving you more informed information regarding your legal rights in the case.

Photo by Kat Smith

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged , , |

Are Arizona Prisoners Being Treated Properly for Mental-Health Issues?


Photo courtesy of: Jim Jackson

In the recent years, the Arizona Department of Corrections has been held accountable for improper treatment regarding health issues of all kinds. In an effort to improve the situation, a court order was placed on the Arizona prison system. However, the order has been ignored so many times that a United States judge has considered holding the prison system in contempt of court. 

There has been countless cases of the prison system failing to treat physical issues, and it seem apparent that mental-health issues are not being treated properly either. For Arizona prisoners struggling with mental illnesses such as bipolar or schizophrenia, it is difficult for them to get on the right medication and properly treat and diagnose their serious medical conditions.

One inmate who suffers from bipolar disorder, describes the quality of mental-health treatment in the prisons as poor and not improving. He went on to describe the doctor visits as the opposite of therapeutic. Victims of mental-health issues in Arizona prisons generally only see a doctor once every three months, often for just three minutes. These serious conditions require much more care and consideration while being treated, and this treatment has been described by many to be inadequate and unhelpful.

Since prisoners usually do not see the same doctor, a plethora of different medications may be prescribed to one individual. People suffering from mental-health issues need to be put on a long-term plan so they can manage their lives to the best of their ability. People have begun voicing their concerns about the impossibility of managing serious mental-health issues without stability or true guidance in the Arizona prison systems.

The most troubling aspect is that many of these prisoners are scared to speak out because they fear harsh punishment. This prevents progress from happening, and allows the Arizona prison system to continue their unlawful health practices.

Photo by Jim Jackson

Posted in Arizona, Arizona Laws, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , |

Tent City to Become Rehab Center


Since the infamous Tent City was recently shut down, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that an air-conditioned space previously apart of the jail will be turned into a facility to help treat those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Transforming Tent City into a rehabilitation center is apart of an ongoing effort to help keep repeat offenders out of the prison system and will help them live normal, productive lives.

The rehabilitation center will have space for classrooms and places to sleep. Sheriff Paul Penzone recently spoke about the new facility and said, “we want to ensure that [chronic offenders] have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail. I hope that all those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.” Penzone hopes to reduce the rate of recidivism and come up with solutions that will get to the root of the problems many repeat offenders face such as drug addiction and mental illness.

There are also plans for a proposal that would include an employment center for inmates, as well as a community corrections center. Both of these announcements quickly followed the retirement of Tent City. Not only will the changes being made help repeat offenders in the long run, it will also reduce spending by almost $5 million each year. Penzone also hopes that the investments being made will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

The rehabilitation inmate program is seven weeks long and will help inmates to identify early trauma and patterns of behavior. These services will benefit many people who most likely do not have the resources to visit specialists on their own. Once the program is over, the inmates will be given resources to help make sure they have opportunities to succeed when they are out in the real world.

Photo by Лечение Наркомании

Posted in Arizona, Drug Crimes, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged , , , , |

Bernardo Garcia is Phoenix’s Attorney of the Month, July 2017


Providing Justice for Phoenix-area Mentally Ill.

Bernardo’s Criminal Defense practice is unique in the Phoenix area. He is featured as the Attorney of the Month. Read his story online on Attorney At Law Magazine  or download the PDF.

Attorney at Law Magazine, phoenix mental health defense attorney
attorney at law magazine's attorney of the month

Posted in Arizona | Tagged , , , |

New AZ Supreme Court Ruling On Insanity Defense


A new Supreme Court Ruling was decided earlier this month that says a defendant pleading insanity and voluntarily undergoing a mental health exam must provide the results to the prosecutor of the case.

The ruling also states that the defendant with a mental health defense must include a statement about their impending charges. The prosecutors are not allowed to use this statement to prove guilt but they are able to use this statement to rebut the defendant’s insanity claims.

The new ruling calls into question whether requiring disclosure violates the defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. But the ruling released by the Supreme Court states that no rights are violated by this decision. This is because defendants claiming insanity have waived their protection against self-incrimination.

The ruling was issued in the case of Josh Rasmussen awaiting trial in a 2013 Glendale homicide case. The decision was unanimous.

What Does This Mean For Others With A Mental Health Defense?

Claiming to be insane during the time that you committed a crime is not always an easy thing to do. In claiming that, you are saying that you did, in fact, commit the crime. But you are also trying to prove that you were not in your right mind when the crime happened and that you’d like to get treatment rather than be incarcerated. It’s not a get out of jail free card and it’s not taken lightly.

Now, with this new ruling, you must give all records from you mental health exams to the prosecutor of your trial. If you are mentally ill, the records will show that. If you have a good mental health defense attorney on your side this will only help your case. Contact us if you need an expert on your side.

Photo by Phil Roeder

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , |