Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2017

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Sister of man killed on Boulder Highway says mental health system failed him

The sister of a man killed in a traffic accident during a Sunday night rainstorm says the lack of services for the mentally ill was a contributing factor in her brother's death.

Karla Kwist, 53, says her brother Jeffrey Kwist had a low IQ and suffered from schizophrenia, but countless attempts to get him help proved futile.

"He would go on these sporadic rants and take off for a few days," Kwist said. "I would have to go out and look for him."

During these episodes, the 53-year-old would become agitated and disoriented.

​Sometimes, weeks would pass before Kwist could find him again.

"I'd have to give him money just to convince him to come home," she said, "He had the mind of a 5-year-old."

She would often call police for assistance, but Kwist says they were never able to offer enough assistance or a more permanent solution. Police maintain her brother wasn't a threat to himself, so their hands were tied.

According to Kwist, this is also the reason why hospitals would quickly release him after admitting him.

In April, her brother was admitted to Sunrise Hospital after a random attack left him with half of his ear bitten off, a broken arm and an injured leg.

He was released a few days later and ended up back on the streets even though, Kwist says, he was not in good condition.

After a psychotic episode on May 14, her brother was also admitted to North Vista Hospital.

He was released the next morning with a diagnosis of depression, even though Kwist says he had been placed on a legal hold.

Authorities can place people on a "Legal 2000" hold — for up to 72 hours — when they are considered to be a possible danger to themselves or others.

"It took him two days to get home after he was released. They'd given him a taxi, but he didn't come straight home," Kwist said.

​On the night of his death, Kwist's brother had been wandering around, homeless, for two weeks. He had left the house during a psychotic episode.

Kwist believes that at the time of the accident, her brother was in his right mind as he used "common sense" to cross Boulder Highway in a designated area.

She disputes claims that he had been running across the street when he was hit by a car because the April 22 attack had left him with a limp.

"My brother was a victim. He was born this way," Kwist said.

She says the situation could've been avoided if police and hospitals changed their definition of what it means to be a danger to oneself.

Kwist says hospitals and police have told her that being suicidal is the lone factor in determining whether someone constitutes a threat.

Kwist hopes that other families affected by mental illness will fight for change in Southern Nevada's mental health system.

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