Families of mentally ill children struggle for access to residential treatment

Aug 24, 2014 by

The first time Emily tried to kill herself, at age 15, she swallowed the entire contents of a bottle of Prozac, along with some Sudafed and Claritin she found in the medicine cabinet.

“Mom,” she said as they sped to the emergency room that morning in May 2012, “I just want to die.”

Doctors at Sierra Vista psychiatric hospital in south Sacramento stabilized the girl after two weeks, then referred her to an adolescent facility in San Francisco, which eventually sent her home.

In the ensuing months, her mother said, she and her ex-husband did everything they could to help their daughter feel better: new medications, therapy, a new high school, an internship.

Just after Christmas that year, as things finally seemed to be improving, the teenager drank carpet cleaner while her mother was running an errand. Paramedics rushed her to a hospital. After this second suicide attempt, doctors recommended she be placed in a high-level residential treatment facility, where she would receive intensive therapy and be monitored around the clock.

Her parents didn’t have insurance to cover such extended care, which can easily run $100,000 a year. So, after some debate, they asked Sacramento City Unified, their local school district, to pay for treatment through a taxpayer-funded program that requires districts to cover the costs of student mental health care.

District officials refused. Emily’s family filed a legal complaint, and agreed to share her story with a reporter on the condition a pseudonym was used to protect her privacy. Earlier this year, a judge ordered the district to pick up the tab for her placement in a residential facility.

via Families of mentally ill children struggle for access to residential treatment – Our Region – The Sacramento Bee.

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