Letter from a Mother Whose Son is Battling Mental Illness

Chesa Boudin reading from the letter

On Wednesday, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin hosted a summit on behavioral health issues.  Prior to the panel that is covered in a separate article, he read a letter from a mother.

Chesa Boudin:

This is from a mother and from someone who I’ve gotten to know over the last several years, someone who has battled many of the issues that we’re talking about today because of her own role as a mother of someone with behavioral health issues and her email bring up a lot of issues. And so I do plan to ask a question of our panelists, I wanted to read this email to round up in one family’s experience and some of the critiques of the status quo, some of the needs that we all recognize. It brings us together today to find better solutions.

(Reading from the email).

I signed up to attend the July 28th, discussion at Manny’s. I hope that there will be actual time for discussion and not a propaganda event for harm reduction. My seriously, mentally ill son was arrested tonight around 6 PM. He was manic, psychotic, and drunk, and apparently kicked a newspaper stand while doing karate moves and seriously damaged someone’s car.

When I refused to pay for the repairs, the owner pressed charges, and the police took him to jail. This is a predictable result of the failure of our department of health to recognize that some people need to be kept in an acute inpatient locked facility and forced to take medication, even if they do not want to. My son has been delusional and psychotic for over two years. He has self-presented at various ERs over 181 times. Yet, has never been admitted to the acute ward at SFGH. He has had 10 short in-patient stays, mostly at for-profit out of county hospitals that keep him as long as Medicare will pay and never have made any attempt to medicate him. In the past year, he began to use alcohol to the extreme driven by his psychosis. I am just lucky that while he was on medication, he managed to obtain HUD housing, which he now may be in danger of losing.

And so far he has not used meth or fentanyl, I am telling you all of this because it remains policy of EPH to use the jail as a cheaper overflow facility for those with serious mental illness, rather than give them the comprehensive care that they need. My son believes that harm reduction means that he can drink up to a case of beer a day, and sometimes a case of beer and a liter of hard booze so long as he does not waste it. So now we will spend some time in jail when what he really needs is the hospital. That’s why I have his Medicare charges for ER visits and ambulance charges for eight months from October, 2019 to May 1, 2021. And they came to over $762,000. Sadly, the better the care of the mentally ill in jail, the more DPH will force those with serious mental illness into the jail, because eventually people like my son will behave in very inappropriate ways, as has happened tonight with my son.

(Boudin Stops reading).

Now I’m not reading that assessment because I agree with every word. I certainly don’t agree with his definition of harm reduction. But I’m reading it because I think it raises a lot of the challenges that we face, a lot of the issues that we’re here to discuss today. And because we all need to be aware of the pain that people are suffering. To hear the critiques that people who are directly impacted, who are trying to battle and grapple with this system are living through. And what I cannot possibly disagree with, what none of us can disagree with, is the heartache and the pain for so many people who are suffering or have loved ones who are suffering from behavioral health needs that are going on there. I told his mother that I would read her letter. And in addition to other questions that we’ll be asking, I’m going to encourage the panelists to respond if they feel inspired to do.


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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