Family Blames Mental Health System For Deadly Chase

A family blames what they call major flaws in the mental health system for the death of their loved one.

The woman died recently in a crash that was seen all over the news.

Now, the family tells their story to Lu Ann Cahn and the NBC 10 Investigators.

Barbara Hersch's family said they saw disaster coming. They said they knew it a full day before the fatal crash on Sept. 14.

But the family said no one listened to them until Hersch led state police on an 11-mile, high-speed chase in Limerick Township. She nearly collided with six other drivers and two dogs were in the car with her.

A walk through Hersch's home near Reading gives you a look inside the mind of a woman tormented by paranoid schizophrenia for over 30 years. The well-educated artist and teacher lived alone with religious paintings on every wall.

Bibles and Buddhas are everywhere in the home, her attempt, her family said, to find some light in her darkness.

They said that she had been hospitalized for her disease as many as eight times.

Two years ago, Hersch led police on a high-speed chase for the first time. As a result, the state took away her driver's license and required her to get monthly shots.

But in 2006, she got her license back. On Sept. 13 of this year, she called family members and was very disjointed and made no sense.

Family members said they immediately called Service Access and Management Inc. in Reading for help. It's a government-funded crisis intervention program with 24-hour service. The family said Hersch was a client of the mental health agency.

Family members said the company offered to send someone out on Monday. They said that would be too late and asked for someone that day, which was Saturday. They said the company sent someone out on Sunday.

By then, family members said Hersch was already driving.

The Hersch family said Service Access and Management would never let them know what was happening with Barbara Hersch's case.

The company said that because of federal privacy laws, it won't confirm with NBC 10 that Hersch was a client -- not even to the family.

A manager at the company, Craig Johnston, did tell the Investigators that "when someone calls and asks for assistance, if it requires an on site intervention, we send someone out. ... In having reviewed (recent) cases, I'm not uncomfortable with anything that happened."

Police said that Hersch nearly collided with six other cars before her fatal crash. Her two dogs in the car survived and have been adopted.

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