The Road Less Traveled…and For Good Reason

(Please consider making a donation at my mom’s GoFundMe page:

It has been a couple of months since my mom was denied mental health services by the county (See my last post.). I of course made phone calls and sent emails to various people and complained. An email to my Board of Supervisor got me in contact with the Director of Behavioral Health.

After communicating back and forth with the Director for a few weeks about different options, including trying to enroll my mom again into an “intensive MH program,” the Director suggested that I contact another department, the Department of Aging and Veterans Services (AVS). She said my mom could try utilizing their peer support program. A bit flabbergasted, I thought, “Are you kidding me?” Was the peer counselor supposed to help my mom “break the stigma” of mental illness and convince her to see a psychiatrist? I played along, though, figuring that by going this route, we can at least say that we did that and it did not work, in the event the county tries to deter us from MH services again.

I ended up talking to Jill, a supervisor, at AVS.  Jill was empathetic and responsive when I explained to her my mother’s history and the current situation. She stated explicitly, however, that she was not sure what her program could do for my mom. She said that they do not focus on mental health and, to the degree that they deal with people with mental health problems at all, they are people with low level anxiety and/or depression. At this point, I just felt like Madelyn was giving me the run around intentionally. She was set to retire sometime in August and I figured this was her way to avoid dealing with me until then.

Regardless, Jill genuinely expressed a desire to help. We made plans for a clinician to visit my mom in our home the following week. It was not entirely clear what the clinician would be exactly doing, but regardless, I figured I could request that they help me/us access MH services at some point in the process.

As with any appointment regarding my mom’s health, I was somewhat worried how it would go.  I waited till the day before to tell my mom about the planned visit with the clinician. The less time she has dwelling about things, the better. And even though she said she was fine with it, I knew anything could happen the actual day of. She had recently walked out of two appointments, one being with a Gastroenterologist and another for a MRI.

Vinnie, the clinician, appeared to be in her early thirties. I could not help but wonder how long Vinnie had been working with the county and what kind of formal training and/or education she had. I was hoping she would be skilled enough to work with my mom.

She impressed me relatively quickly. She was very warm, assuring and friendly. Within fifteen minutes of talking with my mom, my mom opened up to her about some of the hardship she has endured in her recent past. Car accidents, falls, being estranged from her family, medical abuse–She mentioned various things she did experience, like the car accidents, but also things she did not experience, like a nurse dressed in black trying to poison her at a hospital. Vinnie listened to her attentively, regardless of any personal doubts she may have had about the accuracy of my mom’s accounts. This naturally helped build trust between Vinnie and my mom.

Towards the end of what was a short, initial visit, Vinnie explained to us that the specific program she was a part of was called “Project Hope.” As part of the program, she would make eight visits, one per week, to spend time socializing with my mom and in order to help my mom create personal goals and a plan for achieving them. “OK fine,” I thought. I could use some help with my mom in those areas. My mom was disinterested in many social outings I have suggested and just the company with another person would be good.

During Vinnie’s second visit, she would mention what I was hoping would come out of the process. She said that she thought it would be a good idea for my mom to return to “Senior Access” for an evaluation. Without mentioning the mental health component explicitly, she said they could offer a team of support people to help my mom deal with her medical and emotional needs. That is how I have explained it to my mom all along. I have avoided the word “psychiatrist” and think it should be avoided as much as possible. My mom did not refuse or resist the idea, to my relief.

So for now, this is where we stand. My mom is enjoying Vinnie’s visits. My mom considers her a friend and looks forward to their time together. During Vinnie’s third visit this past week they swapped cooking recipes and Vinnie talked with my mom about utilizing some Senior community resources.  Our appointment, our second attempt, to gain access to MH services is in a couple of weeks.

My mom has been living with me six months now and we are really no step closer to having her psychiatric illness treated. I am of course hoping for the best, but know by now not to expect quick, effective results, if any results at all. Ideally, she needs daily monitoring, counseling and treatment, the kind only available in a hospital and/or treatment facility setting. The alternative is to do nothing, however, but accept the injustice and cruelty the system afflicts on the both of us. I refuse to live like that, though. I learned that from my mother.

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