Steuernagel’s autistic son sent to Toledo

Ted Hamilton

Lack of treatment centers in Portage causes relocation

Sky Walker was sent to the Northwest Ohio Developmental Center in Toledo by the Portage County Common Pleas Court. The facility is operated by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and Mental Retardation.

Walker, 18, is autistic and was charged with murdering Trudy Steuernagel, 60, his mother and a long time professor of political science at Kent State.

One of the reasons Walker was sent to Toledo is because of the lack of facilities in the Portage County area that cater to people with disabilities.

“The whole mental health issue continues to be compounded,” said Maj. Dennis Missimi of the Portage County Sheriff’s Department.

He cites continued cuts in Ohio’s mental health programs as one of the reasons Walker was sent out of the county. Missimi said there are few places in the state that take care of people with mental disabilities.

People with disabilities need special accommodations that jails often cannot accommodate.

“It really presents a challenge not only for courts but for law enforcement,” Missimi said.

The Northwest Ohio Developmental Center is a facility that services people who have been diagnosed with severe and profound mental retardation.

When programs are cut, it often leaves some mental patients on the street. If someone has a mental disability and ends up in court, the courts must plan how to place them long term, Portage County Sheriff Dave Doak said.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is an organization for people with mental illnesses and their families. Once a year NAMI grades the nation’s mental health system. On its Web site, the organization gave the state of Ohio a C. Three years ago, the state’s mental health system received a grade-B rating.

Contact public affairs reporter Ted Hamilton at [email protected].