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Was mental health a factor?

Onondaga County DA said Howard has past documents showing mental health issues.

Police say a Syracuse man is accused of brutally murdering his own mother, Valerie Crowder. Darrien Howard is facing murder and weapons charges.

In court documents, Crowder had an "order of protection" against Howard that was issued last year.

Of all of the times that will be examined about the murder of Valerie Crowder it's clear one of them will be a focus on her son's mental health.

"We are more and more seeing cases of mental illness, I'm not suggesting Mr. Howard is mentally ill I'm suggesting that there's a history of documented mental illness in his part," Bill Fitzpatrick said.

Onondaga County District Attorney, Bill Fitzpatrick, said he doesn't know the exact state Howard was in when the killing happened, but he's been in the system for mental health issues in the past.

"Mr. Howard was essentially placed on our doorstep, we did the best we could to get him some kind of treatment and help," DA Fitzpatrick said.

211 CNY in East Syracuse provides over the phone counseling and helps people find mental health resources. Counselors here could point callers to one of 10 mental health support groups in Onondaga County.

Last month, more than 500 calls were answered here and many of them were concerned family members seeking urgent intervention for a loved one.

"I think the hardest part for family is they don't know where to turn when something happens," Stephanie Grandjean said.

In the case of Valerie Crowder, she had a restraining order against her son. It's a familiar struggle, experts say. It can be extremely difficult for anyone to handle without professional help.

"When it's someone they love and care about, I think the dynamic always changes because there's so much at stake," Grandjean said.

Family members dealing with a loved one who has mental health issues can feel trapped, they want the person close but sometimes that's not safe.

"We have some respite programs and I think sometimes respite sounds very hospital, but it's a house we have seen it it's beautiful and it's very relaxing," Grandjean said.

Grandjean wants to emphasize a mental health diagnosis doesn't mean a person will be violent.

211 CNY has a confidential hotline for people to call if they are feeling overwhelmed trying to help a loved one.

For the crisis hotline and respite services, the phone number is 315-251-0800.

For information about resources or referrals, call 315-211-2417.


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