Guest Blog post by: Anne Francisco
Did you know? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fought for the rights of those with mental illness to refuse medication to treat their illness. Josh would never have refused treatment for a major debilitating illness or injury that was located below his head. But his brain, comprised of millions of working parts, was malfunctioning. He was unable to understand that he had a brain disorder. So he refused treatment. His probation officer felt Josh's psychosis put him at great risk of hurting himself or someone else. This was just after Adam Lanza, the seriously ill young man, killed his mother first and then 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. So the PO had Josh brought back to St. Louis, where she was sure he could get the treatment he needed. So he was taken away by police in Merced to a jail where he was punished for his anger by having to sleep the first three nights without a mattress.
The state of Missouri sent two of their officers to California to pick him up and accompany Josh back to St. Louis where he was put in jail. It took TWO MONTHS for a psychiatric bed to open at the state psychiatric hospital where he was put in the forensic unit to await evaluation, which took 30+ days. Because he still had the right to refuse medication, Josh refused it. Paranoid and delusional, several weeks after he arrived at the hospital he used the patient telephone to call his ex-wife who reported the calls. When the evaluation was completed the judge signed an order forcing Josh to take medication which he did for 8 more months until he regained mental competency. His psychiatrist at the state hospital has told me that Josh had major depression and should have had electrotherapy treatment. When I asked why he didn't receive that treatment while hospitalized, he told me that it wasn't the hospital's job to provide treatment.
Their responsibility was to make sure Josh regained competency. That meant forcing powerful antipsychotic injections which made Josh feel like a zombie. He had uncontrollable movement in his muscles, along with other undesirable side effects. When Josh regained competency after 9 months of being psychiatrically incarcerated, he was returned to the jail where he waited another four months for a hearing, and again exercised his right to refuse medication. If he'd been able to reapply for his Social Security Disability benefits to start BEFORE he left the hospital, he could have transitioned almost immediately to a supported housing facility which provided wrap around services to begin his recovery. When the place found out his SS hadn't been restarted they refused to take him. Because he refused medication, group homes and halfway houses refused to take him as well. THERE WAS NO PLACE FOR HIM TO GO so the judge sentenced him to prison for the phone calls he'd made while UNTREATED IN THE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL. You know the rest of Josh's story which ended in tragedy when he lost all hope and saw no way out of the madness of CRIMINALIZATION that had trapped him BECAUSE HE WAS ILL.
Please remember Josh's story when Rep. Tim Murphy, the only psychologist in The U.S. Congress , reintroduces legislation in 2015 that would bring comprehensive reforms to mental health care and policy. I pray that Josh's suffering which directly resulted from the dire state of affairs for all who suffer from serious mental illness and lack the capacity to know that they need treatment will provide a clarion call to our nation's lawmakers and the people who elect them into office (that's you and me). I hope his story and the stories of so many other hurting people and hurting families will result in actions that will restore hope and life to others in the years to come. PLEASE get involved in helping to rewrite the future for others. That would bring honor to Josh's life and provide a measure of dignity to his death. Thank you all for walking beside us as we grieve the loss of Josh, a person who deserved treatment but got punishment.
My Son Killed Himself: Josh Deserved Better!
Read Anne's story here: