After the Revolving Door Stopped – personally speaking
(July 8, 2013) When you work at an organization dedicated to getting people treatment for severe mental illness, you learn a lot about failure.
Failure of the mental health system to help those who need help the most. Failure of medications to fully control symptoms or to do it without grim side effects. Failure of states to provide enough public psychiatric beds for the acutely ill people who need it to set them on the road to recovery. Failure of counties to use their states’ court-ordered outpatient treatment (AOT) laws.
But in a blessedly cool restaurant on San Antonio’s sizzling Riverwalk last week, Policy Director Brian Stettin and I were treated to a feast of success while we were in town for the2013 NAMI National Convention.
Eric Smith was fresh from his assisted outpatient treatment order (AOT, or “court-ordered outpatient mental health services” in Texas) when he was featured in our 2011 documentary video, “Stopping the Revolving Door.”
Now 30, Eric and his proud parents – Nancy and Brad Smith – described the recovery that AOT has made possible for him, including his plans to major in biology at the University of Texas San Antonio, where he’s been accepted and starts in the fall.
Over and again, Brian and I thanked Eric and his parents for opening their home and their lives to our effort to show “a civil approach to treating severe mental illness” in the video.
No, they said over and again. AOT saved Eric and their family life, and the video turned out to be a tool they used to educate Eric’s medical providers.
No dessert could have been as sweet as seeing Eric’s success – or as encouraging for any of us living or working with mental illness.
Doris A. Fuller
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