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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, February 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Mental Health Groups Defend Dallas DA

DALLAS (CN) - Mental health groups asked a fired prosecutor to drop her lawsuit to remove Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk from office, saying it stigmatizes mental health issues and seeks to humiliate her.

Former administrative chief Cindy Stormer sued Hawk in Dallas County Court on Tuesday, claiming Hawk had repeatedly asked her to use public funds improperly.

Stormer claims Hawk has shown " escalating mental illness and incompetence " since she was sworn into office in January; that Hawk admitted during her 2013 campaign that she had been treated for addiction to a prescription drug "similar to Adderall," and that "(t)hose close to DA Hawk have publicly acknowledged that she is also addicted to OxyContin and Hydrocodone."

Stormer's lawsuit came after Hawk left office for two months for treatment of what Hawk called a "serious episode of depression."

Stormer claims Hawk suffered "a complete break with reality" after she was elected last year, and that others have noticed her "bouts of paranoia and mistrust" and questionable firings of employees.

On Thursday, representatives with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Texas, Dallas and Collin County, Mental Health America of Greater Dallas and the National Association of Social Workers Texas wrote to Stormer and asked her to protect privacy laws and support mental health reform by withdrawing her lawsuit .

"Your lawsuit furthers the stigma, discourages others from seeking help and works directly against the progress we need on the issue of mental health," the letter states. "Your lawsuit purposefully works against HIPAA laws that protect the private medical records of Americans, and could set a precedent that strips this privacy and promotes discrimination based on medical history."

The mental health groups say that Hawk's diagnosis, major depressive disorder, is a treatable "common mood disorder" that affects 15 million Americans.

"Those who suffer may fully recover and lead very productive lives," the letter states. "Susan Hawk recognized she was ill, sought treatment, did the hard work to recover and is now telling her story in hopes that she can help and inspire others to seek help."

The mental health groups say the lawsuit could set a precedent that elected officials must disclose physical or mental "defects" before running for office, or face being removed based on the discovery of the defect.

"Your lawsuit, which is based on past actions before Susan Hawk's treatment for depression, has no bearing on her current state post-treatment, and is only a clear attempt to use her depression to publicly humiliate her," the letter states.

"How Susan Hawk is treated after acknowledging her illness, accepting it, treating it and recovering will define how anyone with this or other mental illnesses can be treated, even after they recover. We should not allow the discrimination, stereotyping and public humiliation that this lawsuit represents to continue."

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