Time’s a Wastin’

So far my son has been refused AOT (assisted outpatient treatment) twice. Once because he agreed to take a once-a-month injection of an anti-psychotic medicine. A single shot is not a cure. It’s one month. The second time he was refused treatment, it was stated to me that, although he met criteria, there were others “more deserving” because they didn’t have a girlfriend or a mother.

Why is there only one South County AOT staff member? This is evidenced-based treatment. It is clearly a successful program. It not only saves the county money, but it works better than the avoidance they are currently receiving. If Behavioral Wellness is based in science, then where is the logic of refusing to implement? I sat in on the task force that wrote the requirements for AOT, and it is disappointing that years later, it still isn’t working.

What is it going to take to get this funded? Does my son have to die and I go on a rampage to get it funded? That’s not right. I have no shame in blaming the county for the lack of care he is not getting. There are many other family members I know that have been refused entry to AOT that will also stand with me.

Who is holding the purse strings preventing full implementation? I want to call and ask to fund the program so my son lives. He hasn’t had care this last year, so he has ended up costing the county a lot of money in sheriff, search and rescue, and police response along with hospital stays. Just in the last 40 days, I’ve had to request search and rescue twice. I get it, I know you don’t decide how the county’s money is spent. The costs incurred searching for my son on Mission Creek or in the ocean late at night is not coming from your bucket of money; that’s another department’s bucket. Somebody has to stand up and insist on change.

My son’s grandmother passed away this morning, and I fear having to tell him; when his grandfather died a few years ago he went into a full-blown psychotic spiral. He ran around the streets naked, and a neighbor brandished a pistol at him. I realize our police force is trying to improve, but our county has a documented history of interactions with the seriously mentally ill not ending well.

Marian McKenzie is vice president of NAMI Santa Barbara County NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).


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