Father: Son committed suicide in Butte County psych unit

The father of an Oroville man who checked himself into the Butte County Behavioral Health Psychiatric Ward says his son killed himself while inside.

Posted: Oct 1, 2019 8:27 AM
Updated: Oct 1, 2019 8:29 AM

CHICO, Calif. -  The father of an Oroville man who checked himself into the Butte County Behavioral Health Psychiatric Ward says his son killed himself while inside, and now he wants answers.

Richard Burke is a broken man.  Shaking and crying, he explains what happened after his son Eric Burke checked in to the Butte County Psychiatric Health Facility at the Department of Behavioral Health in Chico.

He says 24-year-old Eric, was suicidal and hearing voices when he asked his dad for help. 

"I'm waiting for my kid to come home," he says, as he clutches Eric's artificial leg.

But Eric is not coming home. 

Richard says days earlier, as he sat in his Oroville mobile home that he shared with his son, a Butte County deputy arrived at his door, and told him that his son had killed himself.

That news tore Richard apart.

He says two years earlier, Eric had been in a serious motorcycle accident in which he'd lost the use of both legs, and his ability to have children.  After that, Richard said Eric's mental health deteriorated, and he began hearing voices. 

Richard explains, "He's very suicidal, he's trying to commit suicide here in my trailer.  He says he's hearing voices and they're telling him to kill himself...He came up with this story that people were coming through my bedroom window and shooting him with drugs in his foot and raping him, and I'm like 'GOD Eric, that's not real, there's no one coming through that bedroom window.'"

Richard said after Eric checked himself into the Butte County Psychiatric Health Facility, known as the "Puff Unit," Richard breathed a sigh of relief, thinking his son was in a safe place. 

"They let him kill himself, they allowed it," Richard said. "He shouldn't have been where he had a bathroom door he could hang a blanket over."

Action News Now filed a Freedom of Information Request with the Department of Butte County Behavioral Health.  The facility denied that request, citing patient privacy.

Richard says the facility should have prevented the suicide, and given his son's medications a chance to work.

He says, "The doctor said we need to let this medication sink in.  He will stop hearing the voices for sure.  He told me he had two weeks, ok? So I'm sitting at home resting easy, sleeping easy, my son's in protective custody.  He should be coming home about now."

Now Richard says he wishes he had just kept Eric home. 

He says, "I get up and keep him company until he goes back to sleep. I could have kept him alive."

Public Records Request by Deborah Anderaos on Scribd

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