Freezing Temps Turn Deadly for an Elderly Man with Schizophrenia

The freezing temperatures that covered the United States last week turned deadly for AC Anderson, an elderly man with schizophrenia, who froze to death outside his own home in Milwaukee, reports Meg Kissinger for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (“Mentally ill man froze to death days after police were called,” Jan. 7).

Anderson had gone off his medications for schizophrenia in 2009. In the years since, his wife, Beverly Anderson, made multiple attempts to get him back on medicine “so he wouldn’t see rabbits coming out of floorboards or imagine that little men were coming through the heat vents to stab him.”

Records show she “called 911 more than 60 times trying to get help for her husband,” reports Kissinger. But “police told her that unless he threatened to hurt himself or someone else there wasn’t anything they could do.”

Beverly found her husband frozen to death outside their home just three days after her most recent attempt to get her husband into a hospital. She guesses that he woke up in the middle of the night, as he often did, and went outside to escape his hallucinations.

“The law limits what police can do with a patient who is not obviously in danger,” said Jim Kubicek, acting director of Milwaukee County’s Behavioral Health Division, who commented on Anderson’s death in the Journal Sentinel. “These are the standards we have to work with.”

While Wisconsin’s laws and treatment standards are better than many states, it seems they were either misunderstood or underused in this case.

–The Treatment Advocacy Center

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