News Article Details

Kasie Strickland: Welcome to mental health care in America.

The Easley Progress - 9/21/2018

Sept. 20--I want to start off by saying I am in no way a mental health professional (nor do I work in the field) so I am in no way privy to the inner workings of the system.

That being said -- and someone needs to say it -- the system is awful.

Someone very close to me was recently in dire need of mental heath treatment and what became of this situation ended up being nothing short of a disaster.

For the past couple of weeks I had noticed severe changes in their personality and became more and more concerned.

They thought "government agencies" were tracking them, they were convinced life long friends were "setting them up" (for unknown crimes), they were convinced people in their life were being replaced -- as in, we looked like the people they've always known, but we weren't "them."

In short? It was really scary, and I knew we needed help.

This all came to a header last week when this person was laying on my kitchen floor claiming they had been "drugged" from a Gatorade.

It was the final straw.

"You have to go to the hospital right now," I said.

They finally agreed.

But when we pulled up to the hospital, they refused to get out of the car -- wouldn't go in. Instead, they took off walking -- and I freaked out.

Unsure of my legal options, I went to the police station -- explained what what happening -- and essentially begged for help.

After waiting for 30 minutes I was told I needed a "Pick up for Evaluation" order from the Pickens County Mental Health facility, located across the street.

I immediately went there.

After checking in, I was forced to wait another hour before finally seeing a therapist to whom I related all of the symptoms I had observed. A form was filled out with the words "actively psychotic" written on it.

The form then had to be notarized -- thank goodness they had one on staff -- and then I was told I had to take the paperwork up to the Pickens County Administration building to be signed off on by a probate judge.

I was also informed that not only was the order good for only 72 hours, but it was only enforceable within the county lines.

Awesome.

(We're now three hours since they left my car and have been walking around Easley.)

So, I drove to Pickens.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a woman who was training another employee in the probate office. My irritation nearly reached a boiling point while waiting for my judge-signed paperwork as I hear her tell "the new girl" how "crazy orders" come in a lot and what the "proper procedure" is to deal with them.

On a side note, I know now that all staples must be removed and you can either type the required forms or write them "really neatly."

Also, copies must be made. Fine. Moving on.

Official "crazy orders" in hand, (I'm still mad about that), I headed back to Easley so the EPD could pick the person up and take them to the ER for an Involuntary Psych Evaluation.

It didn't go great ...

"Do you have any idea where they might be?" I was asked.

I wanted to scream: "YES. I KNEW THREE HOURS AGO WHEN I CAME IN HERE FOR HELP!"

Now? No. I have have no idea where they might be!

To the department's credit, the person was located within the hour.

But -- just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief -- things took (yet another) turn for the worse after they arrived at the hospital and were -- and I swear I'm not kidding -- promptly released.

ER: "Are you a danger to yourself or others?"

Them: "No."

Bam. Case closed.

It didn't matter there was a signed and notarized affidavit where it stated they were clearly delusional and -- in their words -- "actively psychotic." It didn't matter that someone who has known them for their entire life was insisting something was very wrong and this person was in danger. It didn't matter that the person was sitting there telling these medical professionals they thought they were being followed.

None of that mattered.

Following their (almost immediate) release, I returned to Pickens County Mental Health to find out what my next course of action was only to discover ... there wasn't one.

I had exhausted my legal options for mental evaluation -- there was nothing more I could do.

I cannot express my level of frustration at this complete joke of a "solution."

Help?

Ha. More like paperwork, anxiety and hopelessness.

Welcome to mental health care in America.

Kasie Strickland is the managing editor for The Sentinel-Progress and can be reached at kstrickland@championcarolinas.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the newspaper's opinion.

___

(c)2018 The Easley Progress, S.C.

Visit The Easley Progress, S.C. at www.theeasleyprogress.com

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