True Story of Treatment Inequality and Tragedy

July 16, 2014; Right 2 Treatment

We are the proud parents of a 25 year old who first became ill with paranoid schizophrenia just after high school   The disease and our inability to get help for him through our mental health system robbed our young son of a quality life and lead to great suffering.    This is the same boy that loved fishing as a young boy, that played endlessly in the fields catching lizards and making forts and later was an all-league football player, a talented writer and had a passion for music.  Today, our young son sits at Napa state hospital incompetent to stand trial for a crime that he never could have committed in his right mind and another family has lost a loved one. Our son’s life and two families now will not ever be the same.

If you do not have someone in your life with mental illness, it would be hard for you to sit helplessly as he or she loses their life to such a devastating disease as paranoid schizophrenia without any ability to make a difference given our current mental health system and laws.    Our son had been in and out of the hospital over four years, a situation known by all as the revolving door for the chronically ill.   No matter what we did, we could not get any sustained help. And although we met wonderful and dedicated staff and health professional along the way, their hands were most often tied by the laws and qualifications for treatment and insurance company’s requirements for medically necessary treatment.

The tragedies we read about in our newspaper headlines need to stop and the many silent tragedies of our most severely ill that end up on our streets living homeless, in back rooms or in jail because they are unable to get sustained treatment needs to stop.   We can no longer sit by and pretend this ineffective and inefficient system is ok. We need equality of treatment and accountability. We have a mental health crisis in our communities and there needs to be change now.

We need to adopt AB1421, Laura’s Law that compels engagement but ensures that personal human rights are respected.   This law helps an individual stay stable and out of crisis and the revolving doors or jail and is one more tool in the toolbox in addition to the many voluntary programs. Laura’s Law can help reach a population of people we have not been able to reach in hopes to keep them out of forced 5150s, jail and homelessness.

We need to end discrimination against treatment of mental illness and demand that Pro 63 funds support programs that help our most severely ill and integrate physical and mental health systems that are effective and accountable.

We believe members of our community stricken with debilitating disorders deserve the compassion to someday choose a path to wellness.   These are not the few but the many with bipolar illness and schizophrenia and they are not just slipping through the cracks but are falling into a chasm. They need our help and they deserve mental health parity.

As a society, we are cruelly turning our backs on these individuals by not providing appropriate care and we should no longer tolerate this discrimination.

Please yell, scream, advocate, don’t stop calling for change that matters, for Right 2 Treatment for all.

Hans and Candy DeWitt

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