Dear Members of Congress,
As I write this letter, my son is downstairs watching t.v. We just finished sharing a delicious meal together and we spent the day running errands, lining up medical/therapeutic appointments, and getting him settled in.
A little while ago, he stopped, looked me square in the eye, and lovingly asked, “Do you know how good it feels to be home?”
I smiled, and replied, “I can only imagine how good that must feel. I do know it feels good to have you home. I missed you.”
My son, Cody, is eighteen-years-old. He suffers from severe bipolar disorder and he has been sick for most of his life. Two years ago, after fighting for treatment, we placed Cody in a residential treatment center where he received 24/7 round the clock care. Cody was dangerously ill. He had been in and out of psychiatric hospitalizations, he refused to go to school, he was angry, irritable, often psychotic, and completely out of control.
Cody was so sick that he did not know he was sick. He suffered from anosognosia. He had no idea there was anything wrong.
Day by day and minute by minute, the vicious disease was consuming our son.
If he had cancer, we would have hospitalized him. We would have fought for his life.
This was no different. Our son has bipolar disorder. We fought for his life.
Because Cody was a minor, and because legally, the school district had to provide him with an education, we were able to place him in treatment.
Cody did not want to go.
Cody did not believe he was sick.
Now, tonight, two years after he entered intensive residential treatment, Cody is home. And he is healthy.
This weekend Cody graduated from high school with a diploma. He received the “Values Award” for Compassion and he received the “Vocational Award” for Woodworking. He will begin attending a trade school next month where he will study Auto Mechanics. Cody is healthy. He is thriving.
Cody has insight into his illness. Now he is asking for help.
Cody received treatment.
Most families are not so fortunate. Just look at our jails or take a walk on our streets. Somehow, in the name of “Patient’s Rights” we have taken away the right to treatment and traded it for the right to suffer in prison or die in an alley.
We have taken away the right for families to be involved in their loved one’s care.
We have eliminated hospital beds, shortened hospital stays, and somehow convinced ourselves that outpatient treatment (the least restrictive setting) is a one size fits all solution.
We have accepted the status-quo.
But the status-quo is no longer enough.
It is time for change.
We are pleading with members of Congress to pass HR-2646, The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act without compromise. We urge you to focus on the most seriously mentally ill. We urge you to reform SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) by requiring medical professionals to be at the helm and to focus on those with serious mental illness. We urge you to follow Congressman Tim Murphy’s lead because he understands the despair of our families and the needs of the sickest.
You are in a unique and blessed position to restore human dignity and restore life. You are in a position to fundamentally change the way our nation treats an entire population of people; human beings who suffer from a debilitating illness. Our children and loved ones deserve more than a jail cell or the streets. They deserve a chance to recover. They deserve treatment. They deserve a chance for life.
It is time to stop neglecting and criminalizing the most severely mentally ill. It is time for real reform.
My son is home tonight and his future looks bright.
How many more sons and daughters could be home with their families if we created a system that provided real care?
Please pass HR-2646.
Treatment works. Treatment saves lives.
Founder/President of Bold Faith Ministries
Walking with Individuals and Families Affected by Mental Illness