Technicality on residence prevents BART naked acrobat from receiving mental health treatment 

Yeiner Perez Garizabalo did not qualify for San Francisco's Behavioral Health Court because he told police in June during his arrest that he did not live in San Francisco.
  • Yeiner Perez Garizabalo did not qualify for San Francisco's Behavioral Health Court because he told police in June during his arrest that he did not live in San Francisco.

The acrobat who allegedly went on a violent tirade at a Mission district BART station in May was denied entry into a San Francisco mental health program for criminal suspects due to a discrepancy about his residence, according to the man's attorney.

Yeiner Perez Garizabalo, 24, a trained acrobat who goes by the name Yeiner Perez, had been charged with multiple counts of false imprisonment and battery in connection with the May 10 incident at the 16th Street station, which was captured on video by a BART employee.

Criminal charges were not filed until after the video went viral. It shows a naked Perez attacking and accosting several passengers and BART employees while doing flips and handstands on turnstiles.

Since his arrest in June, Perez has been "deteriorating" in jail and not receiving the kind of treatment that would offer a lasting solution to his mental illness, according to the Public Defender's Office.

The reason, according to Perez's attorney Paul Myslin, is that the Department of Public Health refuses to approve funding that would allow Perez admission into The City's pioneering Behavioral Health Court, which not only offers mental health care for defendants in certain criminal cases but also helps them find housing and jobs.

Even though Perez is diagnostically appropriate for the program, Myslin said, the health department denied his acceptance due to a police report taken upon his arrest in which Perez stated that he lived in Berkeley. Funding for the program is only approved for San Francisco residents or homeless people who are living in The City.

Myslin said Perez is actually homeless and had been couch-surfing with his friends all over the Bay Area, including San Francisco, at the time of his arrest. He just happened to be staying at a friend's place in Berkeley when police arrested him up in June.

The Public Defender's Office is appalled that Perez, who is mentally unstable, was disqualified from the program simply because of a statement made in a police report. The program has proven successful for others and could help prevent Perez from having a similar episode in the future, the Public Defender's Office said.

"For people who aren't able to get treatment through Behavioral Health Court, it's very limited in what you can get because you are not going to have a team of individuals dedicated to work with criminal defendants in the system," Public Defender Jeff Adachi told The San Francisco Examiner. "You will just have to wait in line like everyone else."

Health department spokeswoman Eileen Shields said the agency could not comment on Perez's case due to privacy policies. Shields did say decisions on such cases are not arbitrarily made but based upon a set of guidelines.

On Wednesday, the Public Defender's Office asked that Perez be released from custody on his own recognizance so that he can pursue mental health care in Alameda County. The health department offered to help in that effort, Myslin said.

A judge is expected to issue a ruling on that request Friday.

The San Francisco District Attorney's Office said it's in "complete opposition" to Perez's release from custody, saying he poses a danger to public safety.

Such "red tape and bureaucracy," the Public Defender's Office said, is posing another challenge for The City's management of its growing population of people with mental illnesses.

According to a survey related to San Francisco's biannual homeless count, 63 percent of the people interviewed in shelters and on the streets reported having a mental illness, addiction or debilitating physical condition, an increase of 8 percentage points from two years prior.

That has put a strain on the health and criminal justice systems in recent year, according to health department officials who say resources for treatment are dwindling, particularly long-term care options.

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