A story I wrote last week on changes underway for mental health services in the Wenatchee Valley talked a lot about process and programs. Can we have our own evaluation and treatment center here? Can we combine substance abuse and mental health services? What programs can be offered to prevent the revolving door for clients who find themselves in and out of jails and hospitals?
What the story lacked is a look at why those changes are important. As a reporter, it's always tough to find the real person to use as an example. I could not be more convinced that changes in the local mental health scene are needed after hearing from two readers, both with family members who fell through the cracks of our mental health services. Not once, but multiple times.
It saddens me to hear a family member pushed to the point that they're grateful when the police pick them up. Or happy that someone they love is lucky enough to get into a longterm program, far away from home.
One of the people who reached out to me after writing that story tried to comment on it, anonymously. But since our website doesn't allow anonymous comments, I decided to include her comment here. It's powerful, and it speaks for itself. Here is what that person wrote.
"I am glad the mental health issue is being revisited in our community. Our family has been hit with a double whammy. Not only do we have a loved one with a very serious mental illness, but we continue to run into a brick wall when trying to get help for her/him. I was recently assaulted by this person who thought I was the enemy. He/she has been hospitalized many times only to come back to the community with nowhere to go except our home. Everything is fine until he/she decides they don’t need medicine anymore. Each time this happens the sickness gets worse. This most recent event was the worst experience of our lives. Not only was I assaulted, but the police were also threatened. There was an arrest and we thought finally the help will be there to get something done. That is not what happened. Law enforcement chose not to file charges for the threat to them because it was obvious to them that he/she was very sick. When the judge decided to pr my loved one, I was panicked, but reassured by a person at the jail that there would be no release without a mental health evaluation. However, he/she was released anyway. Because our loved one was afraid of being hospitalized again, he/she left town and is in a city of a million people in another state. He/she knows no one there, thus no one to care what happens. In the past, our loved one was hospitalized and kept there until they felt it was safe for release. Too many beds being used at Eastern? So, my loved one gets left out. I guess this time he/she did not hit the lottery and neither did we. Our pain is real and so is the pain of our loved one."