Mental health advocates say I-10 traffic death shines light on state crisis

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 11:21 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 27 at 11:26 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

METAIRIE, La. -- Mental health advocates are sounding the alarm after the tragic death of a 13-year-old boy Tuesday afternoon on I-10 in Metairie.

State police say the teen was being transported to a mental health facility 50 miles from home.

The deadly accident slowed traffic to a crawl along I-10 eastbound between Cleary Avenue and Causeway Boulevard. Emergency crews were on-scene responding to a frantic 911 call and attempted to save the young teen's life.

"A juvenile, a 13-year-old, was inside a van. He was being transported to southeast Louisiana for medical purposes. There was an altercation inside the van and they had to pull over to the shoulder," said Louisiana State Police Trooper Melissa Matey.

State police say 13-year-old Jeremiah Williams jumped out a Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals van that had stopped along the shoulder. Investigators say Williams crossed five busy lanes of I-10 and then attempted to cross back when he was hit by on-coming traffic.

"He then decided to come back towards the right shoulder so he again started to cross over those lanes of travel. He was struck by a tow truck in the center right lane. He was transported to the LSU center where he later died from his injuries," Matey said.

"What we're seeing today is a horrific, tragic event because a child is having to be transported. A child with mental illness. A child who is medically sick is having to be transported 45 minutes from where he lives. It makes no sense," said crisis intervention specialist Cecile Tebo.

Tebo says Jeremiah's death sheds light on a mental health system in crisis that doesn't have enough mental health services close to metro New Orleans.

"These situations continue to happen and we're just not providing the wealth of services, secure safe services for this population. These tragic things happen, this is the result," said Tebo, who stressed that something needs to change.

A spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says the agency is aware of what happened and is conducting its own internal investigation.

State police are still investigating Tuesday's deadly accident.

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