Caledonia Superior Court Judge Michael J. Harris had a very difficult decision to make on Friday about what to do with a Northeast Kingdom Human Services (NKHS) mental health client from Burke charged with assault and disorderly conduct.
But he made it.
Brian Hawkins, 44, will now be discharged from the Central Vermont Medical Center where he has been since being arrested in June and charged with assault and disorderly conduct for allegedly jumping into cars near his mobile home at 696 Burke Green Road in Burke and assaulting NKHS staff members and the driver of a nearby farm tractor.
Caledonia Superior Court
But he won’t be going home to Burke and he won’t be released onto the street.
Judge Harris ordered Hawkins to be held in jail until a court-approved residence with appropriate staffing can be found for him.
The judge was clearly uncomfortable with the decision to hold Hawkins in state prison - even on a temporary basis.
Hawkins suffers from intellectual disabilities and is so prone to violent outbursts that NKHS can’t find any staff members willing to supervise him.
Deputy Caledonia County State’s Attorney Tom Paul described it as an “intermittent explosive disorder.”
Paul was also reluctant to jail Hawkins but said it was better than just releasing him on conditions into the community.
“We certainly can’t have him out on the street because that’s gonna result in harm,” said Paul. “I think Mr. Hawkins would harm himself before he harmed somebody else. But one way or another, somebody’s gonna get hurt.”
He can’t go home to Burke because there is no one to watch him.
Medical staff from Central Vermont Medical Center also made it clear that they did not want to keep Hawkins in their emergency room any longer because there was no medical reason for him to be there and that Hawkins was being so disruptive it was affecting the care of other patients.
Judge Harris wrestled with the decision for well over an hour before issuing his order.
“If I release him to other than a correctional facility he literally has nowhere to go,” said the judge. “And with his intellectual disabilities, he cannot care or provide for himself. That’s part of the delicate situation I have…He has acted in a dysregulated, impulsive fashion - which starts to create risk of harm to people around him. It allegedly happened with the staff working with him.”
According to court documents, Hawkins was living at the trailer under 24-hour supervision by two NKHS staff members when the alleged criminal incidents occurred. Vermont State Police were called to Burke Green Road twice on June 27 for reports that Hawkins was out of control.