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Patient faces charges after allegedly slashing healthcare worker’s face

A patient in a program that helps people with mental illness and substance abuse problems was arraigned Thursday, accused in a knife attack on a staff member who was taking him home in Fitchburg.

Scott Smith, 36, a worker for Community Healthlink, needed 22 stitches to his face after he was allegedly attacked by Keyon Johnston, 31, with a utility knife, which is similar to a box cutter, officials said.

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Johnston was arraigned in Fitchburg District Court on a charge of causing mayhem, said Tim Connolly, spokesman for the Worcester district attorney’s office. Johnston entered a plea of not guilty.

He was held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for Aug. 22.

Community Healthlink, a member of UMass Memorial Health, offers help to those with mental illness or substance abuse problems, and to homeless people, its website says.

Smith, of New Hampshire, was taking Johnston home about 4 p.m. Wednesday when he grew impatient after the Healthlink worker did not give him a pack of Nicorette gum as requested, said Fitchburg police Sergeant Glenn Fossa.

“This is what you get for lying to me,” Johnston allegedly said to Smith just before slashing his face, Fossa said.

Smith stopped the vehicle and ran to police headquarters, about a block from Johnston’s home. A police dispatcher said Smith had a lot of blood on him when he arrived, Fossa said.

Smith was immediately taken to a hospital, and Johnston was also taken to the hospital with a police escort, Fossa said.

“The staff member was treated and released and is home recovering,” said Deborah Ekstrom, president and chief executive of Community Healthlink.

Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com or @Melissa__Hanson on Twitter. Jasper Craven can be reached at jasper.craven@
globe.com.
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