Male mental health worker will spend 18 months in state prison.
Given the scale of the mental health crisis in this country, citizens from coast to coast have never been more reliant on mental health workers for important services. Countless people in recent years have been unable to get the help they need because of a shortage of workers in this profession. Funding is certainly a problem, but so too is the simple unavailability of people with the credentials needed to offer these services. It can feel like patients are up against a brick wall, battling to get adequate care.
Of course, it’s important for people in this field to be trustworthy and capable of delivering sensitive, nuanced care to the patients they serve. Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be the case with a mental health worker in New Mexico who was recently sentenced and convicted on charges made against him.
This case started out when Jon Perry, who was working with a patient who was receiving mental health treatment, attempted to make sexual advances toward that patient. This took place in Roswell, New Mexico at the Eastern New Mexico Sunrise Mental Health Center.
In 2020, Perry had a sexual encounter with the woman at her place of employment. Under state law, this was a crime, as Perry had been her psychotherapy provider within the past year. These kinds of laws attempt to protect people against clinicians acting unethically when they are already in a vulnerable mental state.
After the conviction, Perry was sentenced to spend 18 months in state prison as a result of the crime. Additionally, he will be required to spend no fewer than five years on parole, and parole can be extended to a lifetime. He will no longer be able to practice in his field.
If people who need help with mental health are going to seek out the assistance they require, they need to be able to trust the providers that they are given. Toward that end, it’s essential that protections remain in place and that anyone who violates the laws that control how providers interact with patients is prosecuted and punished in a meaningful way. Cases like this send a strong message to everyone in this and similar professions that attempting to take advantage of someone in a vulnerable position is a risk not worth taking.
There still aren’t nearly enough mental health providers available in this country, especially in places like New Mexico where there are large stretches of rural land that don’t have many services available. When a provider is available and can take on a new patient, that person should be reliable and able to deliver the needed services without any other issues arising.
The actions of a single individual, or even a few individuals across a profession, should not represent how most mental healthcare workers are able to perform their duties. With added attention and funding moving forward, hopefully there will be better access to mental health services for everyone who needs them, and patients will receive the quality of services they deserve.