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Landmark Settlement in Idaho Jeff D. Case

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The child once known only as Jeff D., the centerpiece in a landmark lawsuit against the state of Idaho over how it manages its child mental health system, is off most people's radar now. The last report, from the Spokane Spokesman-Review in 2002, indicated that Jeff, now an adult, lived on the streets somewhere between Spokane and Salt Lake City and found much of his food in Dumpsters.

In 1979, Jeff D. had been sent to Idaho's State Hospital South in Blackfoot, along with 16 other children with mental disorders. Child molesters were being housed at the facility at the same time, and the children lived in a world of physical restraints but no school. Ultimately, the case of Jeff D. sparked a class-action lawsuit against Idaho launched in 1980.

Today, 35 years later, the suit has been settled. The Associated Press reports that a settlement includes the creation of community-based mental health services, engaging more families in the care of their children, increased mental health screenings, and regular monitoring of service quality and outcomes. Perhaps most important is the creation of a network that will include caregivers, schools and social workers to provide a safety net of services.

"I hope we have [the state of Idaho's] commitment that they will carry through," Boise attorney Howard Belodoff told the AP.

Belodoff and fellow attorney Charlie Johnson were barely out of law school when they first took on the case against the state.