State Seeks $1.75 Million From Longtime Mental Patient

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - The state is seeking $1.75 million in treatment costs from a man who stayed in state-run mental facilities for more than 20 years.

The Ohio attorney general's staff filed court papers seeking the money from Delmar Hickman, according to a complaint filed in Stark County Common Pleas Court.

"We probably don't expect to recover that amount. We're probably hoping to just get something," said Sam Hibbs, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

The agency is required to pursue repayment options if there are reasons to believe a patient has resources available, Hibbs said.

"There's kind of a public misconception that if you're in a state facility, you don't have to pay," Hibbs said. "We don't want to create a hardship for someone. But at the same time ... we have an obligation to taxpayers to pursue it."

Filing a reimbursement complaint in court is a last resort, said Eric Hardgrove, a spokesman at Attorney General Betty Montgomery's office, which is trying to collect on behalf of the Mental Health Department.

An account containing roughly $20,000 was uncovered in Hickman's case, and other attempts to collect failed, Hardgrove said.

Hickman has been housed at Heartland Behavioral Healthcare in Massillon and two other state-run facilities since 1981, the complaint said.

Hibbs said care costs about $450 to $550 per day. The state treats between 5,000 and 6,000 patients each year at nine mental health centers.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)