His mother was worried that he would end up dead. But getting him to commit was almost impossible

When Vinny, a man in his 40s from Seattle, is well, he’s sweet and funny.

When he is sick, he is mean to his mother and can be aggressive with strangers and neighbors. Hell says she’s suicidal. And hell draws and draws. Thousands of complex one-line drawings.

Vinny has schizoaffective disorder. For his mother, Kathleen, a retired college professor in Northeast Seattle, caring for him has been like standing at a door with a broken handle for decades.

When Vinny becomes unstable, Kathleen believes that involuntary commitment is her best hope. Whether or not he can open the door to psychiatric care could determine whether he lives or dies.

I don’t know how to navigate this system, Kathleen said. Right now, I’m just trying to keep him alive.

When Vinny goes through a psychotic episode, his posture changes, his voice changes and his eye movement changes, Kathleen said. Even his body odor changes.

Vinny has been on medication for years, which has given him long periods of stability. He lives alone in an apartment that Kathleen bought for him, less than two miles away. In that sense, Vinny is lucky. It’s not an option for many families.

He hangs out in coffee shops and lives off disability payments. In the past, he also worked in food delivery and security.

But Vinny recently began to worry Kathleen and her stepfather, Michael. He would show up at her house, sometimes before dawn, where Kathleen would see him on her security camera, turning in the dark and then walking away.

Vinny was paranoid, Michael said. And when you get paranoid, no place is safe.

Kathleen began receiving text messages from concerned neighbors at Vinny’s condo complex. One said Vinny was talking about being suicidal. Another said Vinny hit the window of a parked car with a couple inside.

Kathleen and Michael have tried for decades to keep Vinny as stable as possible. Research shows that if you can get someone to take medication after their first psychotic break, they tend to do better in the long run. Stability is a positive feedback loop, but each episode of psychosis adds risk for additional brain damage.

But to get Vinny to commit, they had to play a game of luck and win.

Step one: Call a hotline that deploys people called “designated crisis responders.”

These are the mental health professionals who have the legal power to send someone to a mental hospital against their will.

Every time Vinny shows up at their house, Kathleen and Michael call the crisis line. And then they wait. They try to keep Vinny there, stopping him by offering food and money, and trying to keep him from having an outburst.

But those responsible for the crisis may take days to arrive. And when they do, Vinny is already gone. The case is closed and the process begins again.

Every time Kathleen called the hotline, her cry for help appeared on a computer screen in downtown Seattle, 10 miles away.

Crisis managers must first respond to calls from hospitals and prisons within hours. But when regular people like Michael and Kathleen call, there’s no time limit.

But one day, Kathleen and Michael finally got a lucky break. Vinny showed up at his house. Kathleen left a voicemail for crisis responders and immediately called the police. The police, in some cases, can also involuntarily commit someone without any crisis intervention there.

As an officer appeared at the door, Kathleen’s phone rang, a crisis responder calling her back. Kathleen handed the phone to the police officer and suddenly a crisis manager told the officer which hospitals Vinny could be taken to.

After weeks of trying to make this happen, they had Vinny, a police officer and a crisis manager, albeit on the phone, all in one place.

That door to psychiatric care was opening.

The officer asked Kathleen to leave so she could talk to Vinny alone.

Listening from another room, Kathleen could tell that Vinny was hiding his symptoms.

According to Kathleen, the officer asked, “How are you, Vinny?” And Vinny replied: Well.

What is happening? the officer asked, to which Vinny replied, Nothing.

Kathleen decided to go in, knowing it would trigger her symptoms.

He wanted them to see it, he said. I walked in and was asked to leave. And then they let Vinny go while I was out of the room.

The moment was lost. Vinny had returned to the world. Kathleen didn’t know when, or if, she’d get another chance like this.

Kathleen fell to the floor.

I saw Vinny’s imminent death, he said. He couldn’t stand up.

The door slammed shut.

But there was another door, one that Kathleen hadn’t considered until it appeared: the criminal pathway to psychiatric care. This door was seen shortly after the visit with the policeman.

Vinny had lost the keys to his apartment. Kathleen went over to install a PIN pen on the door, so she could still enter. While she was there, Vinny showed up and, according to a police report, slammed the door and knocked Kathleen over.

When the police arrived, they found Vinny too confused to understand his rights.

Once in the criminal system, everyone agreed that Vinny didn’t belong. The psychiatrist who evaluated him in prison, his defense attorney, a prosecutor, a judge all agreed that Vinny was mentally ill. The judge ordered a crisis manager to evaluate him, and he was similarly committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Kathleen and Michael held each other and sobbed.

Kathleen said she hopes her son can once again express himself with ease and freedom. This hell feels safer.

“I’ll hear him say things like, ‘Life is good, Mom,'” Kathleen said. It’ll be sweet and funny.

Michael intervened. Hell be Vinny again.

This is the second episode of Lost Patients, a collaboration between The Seattle Times and KUOW Public Radio, in partnership with the NPR network.

Over the course of six episodes, we uncover the mental health system by showing why it is so difficult to get people into psychiatric care.

This episode was reported, written and produced by Will James, Esmy Jimenez and Sydney Brownstone. Liz Jones is the editor.

You can support Lost Patients by investing in the local newsrooms and specialist beats that make this kind of storytelling possible. Consider joining and subscribing to kuow.org and seattletimes.com.

#mother #worried #dead #commit #impossible
Image Source : www.kuow.org

Leave a Comment