Trenton – Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno testified on May 18, in support of legislation that would require notification of law enforcement agencies when certain patients are released from state psychiatric hospitals. The issue came to Sheriff Guadagno’s attention after she learned that a woman, found not guilty by reason of insanity for the murder of her parents in Morris County, was released from Trenton Psychiatric Hospital and living in Monmouth Beach, where Sheriff Guadagno once served as commissioner. “This proposal gives law enforcement agencies the tools they need to ensure that the citizens of their municipalities feel they are being protected,” said Sheriff Guadagno. “We need to make certain that municipalities are notified when persons released from state psychiatric hospitals are released into their communities.”
The bill, S-1840, sponsored by Senator Sean Kean, which specifically deals with people who commit murder, but found not guilty by reason of insanity, unanimously passed the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on Monday. “This is a common sense response to a situation that requires close supervision,” said Senator Sean Kean. “I expect local law enforcement officers will monitor individuals in these situations with discretion and compassion.”
Kathleen Gatti, a Monmouth Beach resident, who lives next door to the woman released from the psychiatric hospital, also testified. She spoke on behalf of her son who played with the woman’s dog several times. “Like so many children my son went next door to play with the neighbor’s dog. I had no reason to believe that my son was in the home, for close to a year, of a woman found not guilty by reason of insanity, in the murder of both her parents. I don’t think it would be in any parents’ power to envision such an event.”
During testimony, Sheriff Guadagno also noted this is not just for the protection of the residents in the community, but for the people released into the community as well. “The mental health advocates should be comforted by the fact that, should an incident involving law enforcement occur, the police are better able to respond to a patient as opposed to a suspect or criminal,” said Guadagno.
The bill will move to the senate floor for a full vote.