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Was Tragedy Preventable? Subway Push Suspect's Mom Says He Has Mental Issues

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Questions are being raised about subway push suspect Kevin Darden's mental health and whether or not treatment could have prevented tragedy.

Darden, 34, was apparently already known to people in the neighborhood before being arrested in the subway killing of Wai Kuen Kwok.

"I see him around the neighborhood mumbling to himself," neighbor Malik Gregory told CBS2's Dick Brennan on Wednesday.

Police said Darden has a long rap sheet, with more than 30 prior arrests. His mother reportedly said he had mental issues, but it's not known what, if any, kind of treatment he may have ever received.

"The mother says he was mentally ill, moms know," said D.J. Jaffe, executive director of the Mental Illness Policy Org.

Jaffe said the case appears to be like many others. He pointed to Daniel St. Hubert, who earlier this year was released from prison and nine days later allegedly stabbed two children in an elevator in East New York.

"The mother knew he was mentally ill. The mother couldn't get treatment. He circled in and out of the system, and when he became dangerous, then they allowed him treatment. New York requires you to become dangerous to yourself or others before you get treatment. That's ludicrous," Jaffe said.

After the St. Hubert incident state Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell wrote a bill that says every inmate who has received mental health treatment within three years of release, "... shall be provided with mental health discharge planning and, when necessary, an appointment with a mental health professional..."

"If people are mentally ill and getting released in prison we have to make sure they are safe when they are on our streets," O'Donnell said.

Mental health experts said these cases point to a larger problem, where they say the mentally ill wind up in prison instead of psychiatric hospitals, many that have been closed by budget cuts.

"There are so few hospitals. It's harder to get into Bellevue than it is Harvard, and once you're in Bellevue they discharge you sicker and quicker. It's a catch-and-release policy," Jaffe said.

O'Donnell's bill was passed by the Legislature and has gone to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature. The governor's office did not respond to CBS2's request for comment.

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