Family fights for change at mental health facilities following son’s death

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – Nick Carusillo died in September of 2017 after he was suddenly discharged from a dual diagnosis facility outside of Atlanta, Ga.

“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Nick’s mother, Tina Carusillo, said.

“We want lives to be saved going forward,” his father, Mike, said. “We don’t know these people but we want lives to be saved moving forward.”

Nick’s family said he struggled with substance abuse since he was a teen. His bipolar diagnosis in his 20s helped get him on the medication he needed but managing his manic episodes was a lifelong battle.

“He was always a champion for the underdog and he would be so pleased that we are actually doing something with this and moving it forward,” Tina said.

From Huntersville, the Carusillo family decided together, that sending Nick to Metro Atlanta Recovery Residence was a good next step for Nick. They just didn’t know it would be his last.

Nick’s family said he was taken off his bipolar medication which led to him breaking a couple of facility rules. He was released to a halfway house. There, he fell into a manic episode, started walking down a busy highway, was hit by several cars, and died.

Nearly five years after his death, a Georgia jury ruled in the Carusillo’s favor when they filed a wrongful death suit against the facility.

“We wanted answers we wanted understanding, and we wanted people to own what happened and understand the consequences,” Mike said.

Now, Tina and Mike are fighting to change how patients are discharged.

The family wants discharges to have more strict rules. According to Tina and Mike, Nick’s whole care team wasn’t looped in on his diagnosis, medication or discharge. Nick’s parents believe if there had been more communication, he would not have been kicked out and he would be alive.

Second, they want facilities to require a ‘cooling-off period.’ That would be a window of time after discharge is suggested that the whole care team can meet, get on the same page, and the family is given the opportunity to come to get the patient before they actually have to leave.

The Carusillos say they asked the facility to hold Nick until they could get there — they would not.

“Rather than being treated like boot camps, they need to be treated like health care facilities,” Tina said.

For resources on mental health and addiction, you can visit Mental Health America.

Related: Shattering the silence at “Into The Light” suicide and mental health awareness walk

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