A young woman with severe and chronic mental illness is spending months in our county jail awaiting the disposition of her case. I am responsible for putting her there.
About three years ago "Tina" was abandoned by her family in Cortez when they moved away. She found her way to my son's home. Because he is a decent human being, he began providing for her care and safety. The severity of her symptoms and her previous experiences with institutional settings made her extremely resistant to voluntary treatment.
To say that caring for Tina made his life a nightmare is a euphemism, yet his certainty that she would be victimized without his help kept them together. The entire family continues to be impacted by her distress because there is no one else to advocate for her.
More than a year ago, Tina had a psychotic episode in my home during which minor injuries occurred. I called law enforcement and pressed charges, naively assuming that the justice system was the only way to get her that residential treatment she requires to manage her illness.
Her case has bounced around the legal system for months and she remains jailed without her psychiatric issues being addressed for actions she no longer remembers.
While I would like to blame Ronald Reagan for closing institutions without ensuring that community-based alternatives were in place, the fact is that his action was a result of social and economic pressures decades in the making.
As a consequence, services for people with mental illness face constant fiscal shortages, a virtual hash of state and federal laws and a near paralysis of services which leaves families desperately trying to cope with the illness of loved ones.
The stigma associated with chronic, severe mental illness cannot by itself explain the abysmal lack of progress. We as family members and concerned advocates must demand and support legal reforms and local spectrums of care that are at least half as pleasing as Axis' new facilities.