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Did Oklahoma's mental health system fail a man charged in his mother's death?

Officials recently ordered a competency evaluation for Fred Hardeman, who has been in the Oklahoma County jail since June on a first-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of his mother. Hardeman was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2010.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: January 15, 2014
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It was her brother Fred.

For the past two years, Missy and her brother had not spoken often.

Missy had cut ties from Fred after he stabbed her son in the face while they were playing video games, she said. She didn't want to take a risk of something happening again.

Over the phone, Fred told her, “I did a bad thing. I stabbed Momma,” court records show.

Missy called the police. When police arrived, they found Fred Hardeman, who told them “he had killed his mother and she was inside apartment two,” according to court records. Officers found Jean dead, inside the apartment she and her son shared.

Fred was arrested June 17 on a first-degree murder charge and has been in the Oklahoma County jail since his arrest. He awaits a preliminary hearing. In December, court records show that officials ordered a competency evaluation.

After Jean's death, her family found a file with some of Fred's medical records. A look at them gives a brief idea about the diagnosis and treatment that Fred received.

Among the records are treatment and evaluation papers from the time that Fred spent at state-operated and private mental health hospitals. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and anti-social personality disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health defines the disorders: “Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling mental disorder characterized by deficits in thought processes, perceptions and emotional responsiveness.” People with anti-social personality disorder “may disregard social norms and laws, repeatedly lie, place others at risk for their own benefit and demonstrate a profound lack of remorse.”

In 2010, Fred spent several days in facilities, including Griffin Memorial Hospital, a mental health and substance abuse hospital in Norman; the Oklahoma County Crisis Intervention Center; the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health; and St. Anthony Hospital's mental health inpatient treatment unit.

The records also show, in 2010, Fred was prescribed a variety of antipsychotic drugs along with antidepressants and medications that were used to help control the side effects of the drugs he was taking.

In one crisis center report, a doctor noted Fred had occasional auditory hallucinations, which could include hearing voices that aren't there.

Fred wrote in his evaluation of his time at Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health that “things were good here.” The report noted that Fred's stressors were “finances, housing, relationship with mother and mental illness.”

It was also noted that he was discharged because he “demonstrates decreased risk of harm to self and others evidenced by decrease in psychosis, stabilization of mood and increased judgment and insight.”

Treatment but no cure

There is no cure for schizophrenia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Two main types of treatment can help control symptoms — medication and psychosocial treatments, including self-help groups and talking with a therapist.

One of the challenges that the mental health system faces is treating someone who still possesses the constitutional right to refuse treatment, said Herman Jones, a neuropsychologist at OU College of Medicine.

For the most part, adults have the right to refuse treatment or refuse to take medication prescribed to them.

But the mental health system has got to be more than “you show up and take your meds,” Jones said.

“There's got to be someone there that, if at all possible, says, in this case, ‘Look, Fred, these are the complications if you don't do this, and it's in your best interest and everyone's best interest for you to do this, even if makes you sluggish or gives you constipation or made you gain 30 pounds.' The mental health system is more than just meds.”

Should Fred Hardeman have been placed in an institution years ago? Maybe, Jones said. But that comes with trade-offs, he said.

“I think it's important to recognize that we probably would have kept four or five people that could make it in the community and deprived them of their freedom, and I think that's the trade out we have with this, and by trying to deinstitutionalize, we grant greater freedom to people who can handle it, but in this particular case, we grant greater freedom to society to those who can't,” Jones said.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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How to help or get help

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health disorder, you can contact the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services at (800) 522-9054. You can also contact the Oklahoma chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health at (800) 583-1264 or (405) 230-1900, or email namiok@coxinet.net.

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