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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Parents Of Mentally Ill in Torment

The Denver Post

Daisy WeiDel kept her cellphone in her pocket, never certain when she'd need to call the police about her mentally ill son. When delusional, he'd knock her down or chase her down the street.

Darcy Callies sometimes locked her daughter in her room, although she got in trouble for that with social services. "When she was psychotic, she was going to kill everyone," Callies said.

Jim Nichols had to talk a police officer out of Tasering his schizophrenic son after he had punched a hole in the wall.

"We had hopes and dreams that included grandchildren, but those hopes have gone by the wayside," he said.

Most often, the struggles of parents caring for severely mentally ill children who are unable to function well with medication are private. But sometimes they become very public, as happened last month when a 46-year-old bipolar man was accused of killing a 7-Eleven clerk in Denver.

Dale Wayne Baylis had been sent from a psychiatric residential home at Fort Logan Mental Health Institute back to the care of his mother.

"Asking a mother to take responsibility for medicating her bipolar son is unconscionable," said E. Fuller Torrey, president of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., and a specialist in schizophrenia and bipolar illness.

Many people with severe mental illness will not take their medications, he said, or will turn on family members who insist they do so.

Over recent decades, with the closing of state mental hospitals, much of the burden has shifted back to parents.

The nationwide shortage of psychiatric beds is particularly bad in Colorado. The American College of Emergency Physicians recently ranked the state 50th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the number of inpatient psychiatric beds.

Colorado has 11.8 psychiatric beds for every 100,000 people, while nationwide, the average is 30, according to the study.

"Twenty or 30 years ago, a family could count on rehospitalization if someone went downhill or stopped taking their medication," Torrey said. "But as one of my colleagues says, it's easier to get into Harvard now than into a psychiatric hospital."

Dr. Richard Warner spent three decades observing Colorado's mental-health system from his position as medical director of the Mental Health Center of Boulder.

"It's very clear that in Colorado, resources for the care of mental illness have diminished dramatically," said Warner, now director of Colorado Recovery, a private facility that provides residential and intensive outpatient care for the mentally ill.

Daisy WeiDel credits Warner with saving the life of her schizophrenic son, who stayed for 15 months at Colorado Recovery. Before that, "he was psychotic almost 2 4/7," she said, "and I felt, as a parent, that I had to keep him caged at home because I was afraid to take him in public."

WeiDel believes adults such as her son ultimately are better off if they can spend time in a group home and away from parents who do everything for them.

"When the parents die, then what happens? They become transients or whatever, depending on other people," she said.