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Suit claims deficiencies in state mental health care for deaf

By Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – A lawsuit filed against the Missouri Department of Mental Health in federal court Monday claims the department has failed to provide adequate services to the deaf.

The suit was brought by the Missouri Association for the Deaf and 13 deaf individuals.

They say the department lacks mental health professionals with an understanding of deaf culture or mental illness among the deaf.

And they say the department does not have enough sign language interpreters.

Missouri Association for the Deaf president Ella Eakins said through an interpreter that the lack of services has led to tragedy.

"Recently three deaf people in St. Louis committed suicide," Eakins said. "Friends and family members knew they were having troubles, but there were no professionals to refer these people to."

The plaintiffs are seeking class action status to represent about 1,100 deaf Missourians in the suit.

A Department of Mental Health official said he could not comment about matters under litigation.