4. Back through the revolving door

Chapter 4 in a series on mental illness.

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It is starting all over again. It’s like a bad dream. It is defeating. I attended my brother’s court hearing today and want to comment on how I feel. How the system is broken.

[Note: Elsewhere see excerpt's of Tony Allard's writing about his own mental illness .]

The entire morning was for servicing the homeless. The judge, who I was told would not be his trial judge, seemed to be acting more as a clerk, issuing edicts to the litany of homeless defendants who were parading through the court this morning prior to my brother’s appearance. His decisions were delivered in a monotone script-like sequence of statements. He seldom looked up to see who he was issuing his edicts to.

The judge and clerks and attorneys all dressed in nice suits. The defendants were all disheveled in prison garb or tatters, hair unkempt, one being told that she could no longer sleep near the California Incline.

Then it was my brother’s turn.

The system is converting my brother, who suffers from mental illness, into a criminal. And, surely in my brother’s mind, pitting him against me and me against him.

This morning, he refused to enter the court room since I was there. So his public defender pleaded not guilty on his behalf to his having violated a restraining order I have filed against him.

His next court date is a pre-trial hearing on September 29, three weeks from now.

So, after having just been released from six months in jail after being sentenced to time served on a charge of assault and battery for what was really being delusional, grabbing a woman’s purse, throwing it on the ground and walking away, one week later he is back in jail and awaiting another trial.

He is back through the revolving door.

The system is broken. It presupposes that my brother is able to make his own decisions in his interest. He is not able to do that.

During his one week of “freedom” he was homeless. He showed up at midnight at an ex-girl friend and was asked to leave. He spent one night sleeping in the back of a pick up truck of an old friend who called the police on him. He went barefoot after throwing away the shoes I had given him, and evidently spent all of his money I had returned to him, most likely gambling it away.

During all his recent times in courts his mental illness was not considered and, in jail, barely, if at all, treated. He is kept isolation most of the time and given some meds, which he claims he does not take. It must be torture for him, that lonliness.

The system is broken. In most respects he is treated legally as a threat to society and a criminal or suspect and not as a person with a severe health problem requiring treatment.

It is pathetic. Here in America. Where we spend $1 Trillion per year more then necessary to enrich health insurance company executives and stock holders and operate a provably inefficient system.

Do you wonder why I or other friend’s of my brother do not offer him housing? It is because he is acting like a raving maniac. We have all been pushed to the brink. We have lives of our own to deal with. Life becomes intolerable when Tony is raging against everything and everyone. I am practically the only person left trying to get him some help and the system will not let me do that since it imputes rationality to Tony and expects him to ask for help. So, another homeless mentally ill person is the result.

The hearing today was for a violation of my restraining order issued last March after my brother had made threatening remarks about our mother’s care givers. I do not believe he will carry through on the threats but I cannot take a chance since his illness makes him irrational. And, by having the restraining order, I have one legal way to make the system take him into custody, in the hope that will lead to his getting treatment.

But that hope too seems futile.

I went to the hearing equipped with a letter for the judge and attorneys. The Public Defender, Kimberley Green accepted my letter. The DA did not seem very interested in it and successfully argued that my brother remain in custody by citing my brother’s growing record of arrests and convictions, not mentioning his mental illness. The public defender did tell the judge that mental illness was an issue. The judge isn’t the judge who will hear the case, so there was no point in giving the letter to him.

The letter was a summary of my bother’s history and a recommendation, really just an expression of hope, that he be treated again at Harbor UCLA hospital, where the staff is willing to pursue a conservatorship.

Three weeks from now I will attend his next hearing and give the letter to the trial judge, if that is permitted. Maybe it won’t be permitted. I may not have a legal right to help my brother.

And I am tired, so tired of this.

One ray of hope for my brother, not that he would view it that way, is based on a phone call I received from Jose Colon, who was his public defender in the purse grabbing case. Mr. Colon seemed to indicate to me that if my brother were conserved, the state appointed guardian would have the legal ability to choose to house my brother in a lock down facility were that necessary. At this point, after twenty three years of this, and with my brother increasingly unwilling to take his meds, that seems like the only hope there may be for him to survive.

[ story continued: excerpt's of Tony Allard's writing about his own mental illness .]

[top] [ch.1] [ch.2] [ch.3] [ch.4] [ch.5] [ch.6]

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10 Responses to 4. Back through the revolving door

  1. Steve says:

    Let the games begin.

    Dennis, let me start by saying we feel for you. Try not to get down. Having to deal with Tony in the condition that he is in is undoubtedly stressful, angering, and time consuming. We feel your pain, but, in regards to Tony, you may be is a stronger position now then you have ever been.

    From your description, it sounds as if Tony has already decided to work the system. As I see it, it is now going to become a test of wills between you and Tony with-in the upside down, inside out mental health / court system as the field for the match.

    Tony’s refusal to enter the courtroom with you present was his opening move in the chess game before you. For Tony, avoiding the albatross-label of mentally ill is his goal. He doesn’t want to be medicated and locked up in a mental institution despite the fact that somewhere deep inside of himself he knows he is mentally ill. He dreads a complete loss of freedom. He loves going out and doing things, meeting people, and being gregarious. He understands very well that if he is institutionalized he won’t be able to go out and “have fun”, so he will do absolutely anything he can to game the system in his favor.

    There is something I feel I should point out. Beneath his madness, Tony knows you are looking out for his best interest and he still loves you as his brother. If in the end you are able to win the battle of laws and wills with him, it is my firm belief that Tony will tell you he understands why you are pushing for conservancy even if it means he is to be committed to a facility that keeps him locked in and medicated.

    Deep down Tony knows that without his medication he becomes a monster. It is part of the reason, I believe, he did not leave when you told him that you called the police. Deep down he wants his mental illness to end. He just wants to be cured.

    I once tried to explain to him that his condition was incurable, but it didn’t sink in. He just covered his face with his hands and turned away from me for a few seconds. He wants it to be over as much as the rest of us, but his insanity gets in the way.

    At some point between now and his next court date I will try to go and visit him. Before I do I will contact you in case you want to pass along any messages.

    I am 100% with you on Tony’s need to be moved, somehow, into conservancy. From what I can see this is probably your best opportunity yet. Because you are the victim in his restraining order violation, perhaps there are measures to allow you to push for a court ordered conservancy vs. other forms of “justice.” Doing so, will of course, be time consuming and maddening and exhausting, but you now have the advantage of advocating as the victim and you can push for real “justice.” Tony’s first move of refusing to enter the court only works in your favor. Any judge will see the nuttiness of a defendant refusing to enter the court because he doesn’t want to face his brother, especially when the brother has detailed documentation on the defendant’s mental illness.

  2. Thanks for those thoughts Steve, well expressed.

    One thing about lock down. There are housing alternatives that are not lock downs. A lock down should be a measure of last resort, of course. I remain hopeful that a conservator could find a situation short of lock down and that Tony would be receptive to it since it would be preferable to being homeless, something he himself admits to “not being very good at”. But, as you know, when he become belligerent, he is very difficult. So a lock down has to remain an option to the conservator. After all, Tony has shown that if left completely on his won untreated, he ends up in de facto lock downs, i.e., in jails and prisons.

    I’m not sure how much like chess this is, since I have learned to mistrust any attempt to assign logic to the actions of someone who is irrational. But points well made and, yes, I will regain some energy and continue to do what I can to help this broken system do the right thing.

  3. Yesterday Tony was transferred back to TTCF (Los Angeles County Twin Towers Correctional Facility) according to the LA Sheriffs Department Web site.

    He had been there six months prior to his trial. After a week of homelessness and a few days in the Santa Monica jail, he’s back at Twin Towers again, a place he does not like when he is rational enough to discuss the situation.

    I will live my life out here in the world and do what I can to cause the system to place him in a conservatorship.

    I will report the results of my efforts in these pages.

  4. Tina says:

    Hello Dennis,

    Just wondering how things are going with your brother. Has the conservatorship went through? I hope he is provided with the treatment necessary to help him get better.

    It seems as though despite being fed up with the situation you have not given up on trying to help your brother. I know sometimes turning away those we love can be difficult, but taking them in is not always what is best for us or them. Good luck in your continued efforts to help your brother.

    I hope you have a nice Christmas and that the New Year brings renewed hope for you and another chance for a better life for your brother.

  5. I have not had a lot of communication with Tony during his more recent incarcaration. I was and will be in touch with a social worker at the L.A. County jail in order to provide some information to her that may sway her and her team to initiate a conservatorship. However, I just have not had the time or energy to get that done yet.

    Overall, I have reached a point where I feel I can no longer help Tony. He has called me a few times from Jail. I try to not bow to my tendency to be judgmental in the way siblings tend to be with one another, but I often fail at that goal and forget that I am one of the few outlets Tony has for communicating with the external world. When I do remember that I try to be compassionate, yet since he is either not taking his meds or the meds he is taking don’t seem to be working, the conversations tend to be very one sided, with him doing most of the talking and that talking is, in some sense, really just him talking with himself. As harsh as that sounds, it is an approximation to the truth.

    I look around me at the pathetic state of our society. We have Republicans who honestly believe that selfishness works. We have a President who promised change but is powerless to bring change. We have an America society founded on the conquest of several million square miles of what only three life times ago was fertile land hunted by natives. How can I expect such a society to give a rats ass about my brother or institute some kind of socially progressive measures that help those who need help the most. Well, I cannot.

    I will have some time, finally, between now and New Years, to put together some documentation and provide that to the social worked. I will do that, as previously promised, and report on the results here in coming months.

  6. Franklin says:

    Hey Dennis,

    I have the same problem as you, however, judging from your youtube video, we are about 15-20 years younger. My brother is always thinking people are talking about him and making fun of him. When I had to call the police on him to get him out of my house because of many reasons including raising of the voice, slamming of doors and destruction of my house. The police told me in a nutshell that most of the people on the street are mentally ill and he said that there is nothing that you, we, or society can do to help until they do something rash and then it becomes a police problem and thus incarceration. He has not done any of that, yet, but he has become a member of the streets.They also said that the state hospital ran out of money and dumped hundreds of mentally ill people on the street! This is not right! I feel awful about the whole thing because my whole life I have tried and tried to help him and finally I broke down and said to myself I can’t do that anymore. The awful truth and old saying is you can bring as horse to water but you can’t make ‘em drink. Almost everyone in the family also feels I did the right thing but cmon he is my brother you know? I’m so worried about him but there is no way I can find him. I can totally feel for you and Tony and I wish that this would all go away. I want to ask you if you have any advice to give to a younger generation brother brother relationship dealing with your exact same problem. I applaud you for your post(s). I would like to collaborate with you and what you have done already to try and help Tony and my brother.

  7. Franklin, my reply to you is that you did the right thing by calling the police. What else could you do? Be your brothers guardian and care giver for the rest of your life? And would that help anyway? No, it would not.

    The bad news is that it may very well be that your sibling gets worse before he gets better or never gets better. So you must be prepared for that eventuality.

    Yes, the system is broken. The Libertarian idealists here in the U.S. expect people to take care of themselves, yet the mentally ill literally do not know that they need care, much less have the ability to ask for it in many cases. Yet, our court system and legal system is designed to give “rights” to the mentally ill. Of course a person should have rights. But when a mental illness takes control of a person, those rights are not being given to the person but, rather, to the mental illness, letting it continue to control the person. The situation is absurd yet our legal system and society seems ineffective and incompetent to change this state of affairs.

    In extreme cases when someone finally cracks and harms people, one hears the public and the news media ask questions like “why did he do what he did?” As if there is a rational explanation for what an irrational person has done.

    My conclusion is that the system itself is irrational, defective and incompetent. (That means, not surprisingly , that the people in society are irrational and incompetent, by and large). Once you make that conclusion, you look for whatever alternatives are available. So, you end up calling the police. If necessary, make up something to tell the police that your brother threatened you. That will force the police to detain him on a psychiatric hold and have him evaluated. Also, if he really is raising his voice and destroying your house, then he is threatening you. If you fear for yourself and your loved ones, you have the right to feel threatened, so you are threatened and should say so. Of course I am not really advising you to lie. I am just saying that were you to lie it might work.

    I once called the police when my brother was being threatening and they took him to Harbor UCLA psychiatric emergency room. The police left him there. But the ER then released him back to the street. This in spite of the fact that the psychiatric department on the seventh floor of that very same hospital was familiar with my brother and would have been willing to admit him, treat him, and even pursue a conservatorship. I called Matt Wells who I knew from him having previously treated my brother. He told me that their own ER has as a goal to not admit people due to lack of funding.

    Another absurdity was when Judge Melissa N Widdifield of the Los Angeles County Mental Health Court found “for” Tony and turned him free on a prior occasion when that same department at Harbor UCLA was attempting to pursue a conservatorship hearing. Within one week my brother had accosted a woman on the street, grabbing her purse and throwing it down on the sidewalk then walking away. He was arrested for robber, costing the state many tens of thousands of dollars to try him on a charge of robbery. My brother has cost the state of California hundreds of thousand of dollars over the many years he has been ill and had the “right” to not take his meds.

    So here is my advice for you.

    Be aware that our legal system and society is broken and incompetent when it comes to treating the mentally ill (among others).

    Be aware that not enough people care about this or are aware of this to do anything about it or, worse, prefer it stay this way. Our society does not care about the uninsured normal people. Why should it care about the uninsured mentally ill people?

    Contact a treatment center for the mentally ill near where you live and ask them for assistance. You will find that process frustrating but of some help.

    Do not hesitate to call the police when your brother is making life a living hell for you. Tell them he threatened you. Tell them he said he was going to hurt you but you can’t remember the exact words. Look, if they arrest him, he will at least have a roof over his head and not be able to harm himself or others and get some level of treatment.

    If your sibling’s situation gets worse, he or she will eventually receive some kind of medication and will get to a point where he or she may be receptive to continued treatment. That does happen in many cases.

    Feel to contact me. My email address is allard@oceanpark.com.

  8. Denise says:

    Dennis, I completely understand what you are going thru. I, to, have a brother who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, about 26 yrs ago. For many years, my parents dealt with having to call the police, and him being placed in the state mental hospital. He is also deaf and did not want us to learn sign language because he didn’t want to admit to being handicap, then throw mental illness on top of that and it was a real disaster. To make a very long story short, he got in trouble for writing bad checks, he thought, got checks, got money. My sister works for an estate lawyer who is also guardian for a man here in OH with Schizophrenia. We talked to my parents and they were able to get my brother a guardian where they live in KY. He was placed in a group home and lived there for about 8 years. The consistency and having someone make sure he took his meds was the best thing for him. He ended up getting a job there in the cafeteria. Due to his health this past year, he is now in a nursing home. He still has some minor issues, but has been able to maintain some semblance of a life. Not what you or I would consider living, however, better than living on the streets. I hope you are able to get a guardian set up for Tony. It truly is a sad disease. Good luck and take care.

  9. Robert Petitt says:

    This comment might not follow the previous one(s), but it’s all relevant to Tony. I realize that correctional facilities do not double as mental health facilities — and if they are attempting to, they’re not doing a very good job of it. But in light of Tony’s admission on the video that he “cheeks” his pills, why isn’t it dispensed in liquid form? Someone I know who was in detox said it was done that way there. Presumably one reason was so the patient didn’t know how much was being dispensed, but I can imagine it being harder to trick the system with a liquid suspension than merely to conceal pills and moments later, spit them out. Can this really be an order of magnitude more difficult than the current method?

  10. Mark Blei says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I just sort of ended up on your series about Tony by happenstance , and in wondering how he’s doing right now, and if he ever found his way out of prison, and into any form of sustainable treatment or is he still cycling between the are, police and jail?

    Best wishes,
    Mark

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