By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
The mother of the man accused of stabbing a hospital emergency room greeter says her family is devastated by the life-threatening injuries Linda Clark is suffering because of her son.
She also says she is frustrated with “years of unsuccessful effort” to get effective mental health treatment for him through Sharon Regional Health System.
Justin M. DelFratte, 30, of Sharpsville, is charged with stabbing the Hubbard woman in the neck on Sunday at the hospital of Sharon Regional. She was transferred to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where she was listed in critical condition Monday.
Sharon police said DelFratte had earlier been discharged from the emergency room and had been refused narcotic pain pills. He wasn’t satisfied with an offer of non-narcotic pills, police said, and paced back and forth at the emergency room entrance before stabbing Clark and being held by hospital security until police arrived.
They didn’t indicate what weapon was used.
“I am in no way excusing the actions of my son,” Christine Simon said Monday. “My family and I am praying for her (Clark) and her family. We were always afraid that Justin might hurt himself, but we never thought he would hurt anyone else.”
Simon, a registered nurse who lives in Boardman, Ohio, said DelFratte has a history of drug abuse and mental illness and that his family has never stopped trying to help him to confront his problems and get him the psychiatric treatment he needs.
He “is delusional and has hallucinations” and has received Social Security benefits for mental disability since he was 19 years old, his mother said.
He has been treated “four or five times in the last five years” in the Sharon Regional mental health unit.
In September, he cut his arm in a suicide attempt, saying he was “being attacked by ninjas.” Because of that, Simon was able to have him committed involuntarily for psychiatric treatment. She earlier had convinced a mental health advocate that he posed a danger to himself or others and had him committed for treatment in 2010.
Over the family’s objections, Simon said, Sharon Regional released him to outpatient care in September although the family knew he wouldn’t take his medications.
“We pleaded with him but he told us the pharmacist takes out the medicine and replaces it with poison,” she said. “I told the hospital about that. I said, ‘You are releasing him and putting him on the streets when you know that he said his medicine is poison?’ ”
Simon said the family pleaded for DelFratte to be put into a state hospital for long-term inpatient treatment.
“He needs intense psychiatric treatment and he needs to have his medication monitored,” she said. “He needs a psychiatrist to talk to him about his fear of taking medicine and his hallucinations. We begged them, telling them this might be the last time to reach him. They said they didn’t feel he needed that.”
Simon said Medicaid limitations on mental health treatment options are complicating her son’s care.
Asked to comment on DelFratte’s case, Sharon Regional declined.
Ed Newmeyer, director of marketing and community relations, said the hospital is never able to comment on any patient’s hospitalization or treatment.
“Due to patient confidentiality, we cannot publically discuss the details of any patient’s hospitalization or treatment,” Sharon Regional said in a statement. “All patients and their family members have access to multiple options should they have any questions or concerns about their care.”
Simon said Clark and her family “need to know that her employer put her and everyone else in the emergency room at risk by releasing him.
“I am sure they have not told the family that he was involuntarily committed and they released him two months ago,” Simon said.
DelFratte is being held in Mercer County Jail after being charged with attempted homicide.
Although Sharon Regional could not comment on DelFratte’s treatment, it did release a statement saying that as a result of Sunday’s incident it has implemented a number of increased security measures as an added precaution to ensure the safety of its employees, patients, and visitors.
Those measures include an increase in the physical presence of security staff, additional use of electronic surveillance and screening techniques, and the implementation of increased security procedures and protocols.
Sharon Regional said it will evaluate those options both on a short-term and long-term basis related to its overall security plan for its main hospital in Sharon, as well as its satellite facilities in Hermitage, Mercer, Neshannock Township in Lawrence County and Brookfield and Hubbard in Trumbull County.
“The entire Sharon Regional family continues to pray for a complete recovery for Ms. Clark as well as pray for the Clark family as they deal with this senseless tragedy,” said John R. “Jack” Janoso Jr., president and CEO. “Our focus remains on providing the very highest quality of care for our patients while assuring all of our Health System locations have the appropriate security measures in place to insure the safety of our patients and staff.”