Florida

Woman locked in Florida mental hospital released to her group home

Cindy Mertz
Cindy Mertz

Cindy Mertz, an intellectually disabled Pasco County woman who was held for three weeks under the state's involuntary commitment law while her guardian fought for her release, has been returned to her group home.

"We just got her out," finally," a family advocate, Nikki Drake, told the Miami Herald Wednesday night. "It wasn't pretty."

Mertz, 21, who had been removed from her birth parents around 2000 because of abuse and neglect, had spent the rest of her childhood in foster care before being adopted. Her adoptive parents now are her court-appointed legal guardians. The story of her family's inability to gain her release from the North Tampa Behavioral Health center had been detailed in the Miami Herald earlier this week.

Mertz has been living in a Holiday group home licensed and funded by the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and a certified behavior analyst had worked with her for about three years to help control her sometimes unruly behavior. Her guardian, behavior specialist and Drake, who is on the Pasco board of directors of the National Association for Mental Illness, had fought for more than two weeks to gain Mertz's discharge from the mental hospital.

In recent days, hospital staff members had said twice that they would discharge Mertz back to her group home — only to change course.

Mertz's family and advocates have said repeatedly that a long stay away from her group home likely would set back Mertz's progress.

"This begins the journey for her back home," Drake said.

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