By Patricia and Ralph Webdale
From the New York Daily News
Thursday, Jan. 3, is the 14th anniversary of the death of our daughter Kendra Webdale, who was pushed off a subway platform into the path of an oncoming train by a man who was diagnosed with a mental illness. A question we have been asked recently is whether the two subway pushes occurring over the past month in New York City — the killings of Ki-Suk Han and Sunando Sen — have “brought it all back” for us.
The answer is, we have long understood that we cannot bring Kendra back. The memory of that day is forever in our hearts and in our minds. Nobody has to remind us of our tragedy. We live with it.
What the recent events do confirm, however, is our belief that although the assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law named after Kendra has saved lives and improved the quality of many lives, it does indeed need to be improved — immediately — to prevent further death and grief.
The common threads in each tragic story are all too familiar. A person has a severe mental illness. A friend or family member seeks help for that person. The person receives initial treatment, if they are lucky enough to access the system. The person seems to be doing better. But then the person stops taking medication or “gets lost in the system.”
In other words, there is no followup or monitoring of the patient and, tragically, this person hurts someone.
Andrew Goldstein had lashed out at several victims before he pushed Kendra. The most recent accused pusher, Erika Menendez, had attacked a retired fireman. There are almost always warning signs, if only we are paying attention.
In one recent report, a city hospitals spokeswoman was quoted as saying that “people get well and then they get sick again.” This statement is like a land mine. People who are on a treatment plan or taking medication need to stay in treatment and stay on medication. For a person to be showing improvement and then suddenly be without a support system is equivalent to them having a ladder pulled out from under them.
In 1999, the Webdales’ daughter Kendra was pushed to her death in front of an oncoming train by Andrew Goldstein.