Struggling Through the System to Get Help for My Son
I don't want my son to wind up in prison
I have been relentlessly seeking help for my 17-year-old son since May of 2011, a month before his 16th birthday. His neurologist was the first healthcare provider to recognize that Z was in need of inpatient treatment. No residential facility I have contacted thus far would take him; jail has become the only solution. Refusal is not due to insurance. I was informed that medical necessity and insurance were approved during most of the intakes. Our health insurance through NYSCOPBA will pay for residential if it is warranted. Most claimed that they cannot treat the mental health issues because of the addiction, or that they cannot treat the addiction because of the mental health issues.
Z is non-violent. He is reckless and self-destructive with major impulse control issues, feelings of persecution and social/family problems. He does get along well with peers for the most part; problems with authority and continuous apathy are his downfalls. On Z's psycho social evaluation completed by our county's psychiatrist, the three Axis-I diagnoses are 1) bipolar disorder NOS; 2) generalized anxiety disorder; and 3) cannabis addiction.
I have spent the last 18 months watching his mental illness grow more severe and his addiction to pot (the only thing he has found to temporarily treat his anxiety) spiral into manic episodes, legal issues, lost memory, lost time, and severe depression. All his counselors and I have tried to convince him that the marijuana increases anxiety long-term. However, he is unwilling to stop due to the severity of his symptoms supporting his addiction. He believes cannabis is the only effective medicine for his anxiety and cannot be swayed. He was admitted for one week (the day after his last arrest) to an inpatient adolescent mental health facility, but the duration was too brief to have a lasting effect.
Now my son has been arrested four times for unlawful possession of marijuana, once for petty larceny and once for grand theft, a class E felony he committed while under the influence and does not remember. In fact he signed a confession based on what his friends told him he did. My son's public attorney needs to know what facility will accept him when the attorney meets with the DA tomorrow, one week before Z's court date. Z is willing to go into treatment if his attorney can convince the DA to accept the completion of a program as time served.
Most of my time these past two weeks has been spent searching for treatment, then gathering, copying and faxing paperwork to the one facility I was sure would accept him. When I was done submitting records, we waited 5 days to learn Z was denied. His mental health diagnosis precedes his cannabis addiction so they will not take him due to his mental health. Nor will any of the other many facilities I have spoken with over the past year and a half. After this denial, I admit I gave up looking for placement. I had been trying for so long and I had less than a day left before the attorneys met; it seemed futile. I called one more place that I found on the internet. They said they would accept him. I pray that there will be a time to submit the bed letter to my son's attorney for presentation to the DA, but I have less than 24 hours left. After searching for the past 18 months, I learned it is too late to present to the court system. Z would have to be in the facility to get the letter completed, which the public defender strongly advises against until after attending court.
I do not think 60 days in county jail will be the best solution for him or for his future, nor does his attorney or counselor nor does the victim of his non-violent crime or the crime victim's advocacy board. My son is terrified that a stay in a rehabilitation facility will rob him of his individuality, take away his sense of adventure and mold him into a compliant "sheep." He would prefer jail except that he knows what violation and violence potentially awaits him. I believe his lifestyle has taken away his sense of accomplishment and exasperated his learning disabilities to a degree that he is unable to function normally, even with an IQ of 140 just a few short years ago.
I need to fill out the releases at County Mental Health and to the attorney. I have just started a new job also and cannot take time away. I work on this daily before work or during my half an hour lunch. I am emotionally exhausted and cannot get assistance from his case manager since he states he does not know what to do. I am alone in this as I have been for the past decade of meetings, therapy sessions, Z's expulsion from BOCES Career and Technology Center due to behavior (without any mandated hearings) and looking for appropriate care and the supports we need as a family. Z's anxiety is so bad he cannot even attend classes at his school and must go to tutoring after school. Most events that others find usual become endless day to day battles with Z and he struggles against me when I force him. The system has failed to help him and the future seems bleak.