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Newsom Confrontation Reveals Flaws In State Psychological Well being System – CBS San Francisco

OAKLAND (AP) – The big brother Suzette Chaumette remembers was funny and kind, an aspiring historian at the University of California, Berkeley, whose promise was dashed by a mental illness. Over the decades, he struggled with bipolar disorder, cycling in hospitals and halfway home and becoming homeless.

In June she saw him on the local news, lying on the floor and being arrested for allegedly throwing a water bottle at Governor Gavin Newsom. The authorities called the 54-year-old man “aggressive”. It was the first time she had seen him in years.

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“I never thought he’d be that guy, but he’s that guy,” she said, crying. “He’s not a bad guy. He has big intentions and would really accept the help if he was in the right place. “

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In California, a quarter of the 161,000 homeless people also have severe mental illness. An estimated 37,000 people freak out between nonprofits and public institutions, pedaling through emergency rooms, prisons and the streets, sometimes for decades, with no one overseeing all of their supplies in a broken system that nobody knows exactly how to fix.

In June she saw him on the local news, lying on the floor and being arrested for allegedly throwing a water bottle at California Governor Gavin Newsom. The authorities called the 54-year-old man “aggressive”. It was the first time she had seen him in years.

“I never thought he’d be that guy, but he’s that guy,” she said, crying. “He’s not a bad guy. He has big intentions and would really accept the help if he was in the right place. “

In California, a quarter of the 161,000 homeless people also have severe mental illness. An estimated 37,000 people freak out between nonprofits and public institutions, pedaling through emergency rooms, prisons and the streets, sometimes for decades, with no one overseeing all of their supplies in a broken system that nobody knows exactly how to fix.

There aren’t enough places for people like Suzette’s brother Serge Chaumette who are likely to need long-term clinical care, says Paul C. Webster, director of the Hope Street Coalition. People with brain disorders need a number of life situations in which to “step off” as they improve.

But government reimbursement for this type of care is low to nonexistent, he says. For example, Medicaid does not pay for treatment in “mental illness facilities” with more than 16 beds.

“The public just doesn’t know. They’re crazy about all the camps and people on the streets because they don’t understand what it takes to cope with them other than evacuate them, ”said Margot Dashiell, vice president of the East Bay Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Meanwhile, families suffer silently. Suzette Chaumette, speaking with The Associated Press, discussed a private pain that only became public after a chance encounter with the highest elected official in the state.

“Mental health is a family problem,” she says. “It doesn’t live in isolation.”

The meeting between the governor and Chaumette in June was brief.

Newsom, 53, was in downtown Oakland promoting small businesses when he was “approached by an aggressive person,” said Fran Clader, spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol, the governor’s security. Newsom appeared unharmed and joked about the incident.

Chaumette was jailed and released within a day. He doesn’t have a cell phone and his family didn’t know where he was.

He did not appear at the trial the following month in a separate case allegedly spitting on an officer in March while he was being involuntarily taken to a county mental hospital.

On Friday, Alameda County’s assistant public attorney Jeff Chorney said Chaumette was being treated for his illness and that all charges should be dropped.

“We cannot continue treating people with mental health problems by locking them in a cage,” he said in a statement.

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Governments at all levels have been divesting mental health for decades. John F. Kennedy wanted to replace state asylums with state community hospitals, but the transition never happened. States began dismantling mental health beds and those that are available are increasingly being reserved for criminal defendants, the Virginia Treatment Advocacy Center reported.

No state meets the gold standard in care, but some cities have innovative programs, said Elizabeth Sinclair Hancq, the center’s research director. New York City has a groundbreaking mental health clubhouse that addresses social isolation, while Tucson, Arizona uses a robust crisis center model to connect people to services and bypass prisons.

In recognition of such shortcomings, Newsom signed a $ 12 billion spending plan this year dedicated to homelessness, including converting motel rooms into lodging and improving facilities for people with addictions and mental illnesses. More than a quarter of the country’s estimated 580,000 uninhabited residents live in California.

“We have to be accountable and accountable to do more and get better, and that is exactly what this budget seeks to achieve,” said Newsom, a Democrat.

Mental health experts say the US needs more of everything: inpatient beds, outpatient treatment, and longer-term housing. That can seem fantastic, however, given that public health care is underfunded, social workers overwhelmed, and property prices are out of reach, especially in the prohibitively expensive San Francisco Bay Area.

Teresa Pasquini is a former Contra Costa County Mental Health Commissioner who has documented her family’s struggle to help their son, who has a schizoaffective disorder. She wondered about the man who was accused of throwing a bottle at the governor.

“Mothers like me say, ‘Is that one of us? It sounds like it is, ‘”she said. “There is nowhere to go and so they are failing and constantly being imprisoned and it’s a humanitarian crisis that nobody talks about.”

Chaumette grew up in Oakland, the only son of accountants who fled Haiti’s political turmoil as a baby. Like many immigrants, his parents worked hard to give him and his sisters a better life: Catholic school, music lessons, and a cozy home where the family spoke in French.

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic changes in thinking and behavior. He had his first manic episode in his early 20s, cutting up clothes and smearing car oil around the house, his sister said.

“My mother, my sisters and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is not normal,'” she said.

It took a long time to get the correct diagnosis, and although her brother went through periods of stability, she never stopped. He hopped around agencies that were not communicating or leaving the people in charge of his care, and there was little consequence, his sister said. Records show he attempted to continue his education at UC Berkeley, where he was re-enrolled from 1987 to 2003.

The last time the siblings hung out was when he lived in a shabby Oakland halfway house. But the building burned down in 2017, killing four people. Chaumette was among those who became homeless in a city where the median monthly rent for an apartment is $ 2,700.

“The public perception is often that the family kicked the individual out or the family doesn’t care, but very often they don’t,” said Sinclair Hancq, the research director. “The family tried.”

In Alameda County, where Chaumette was arrested, a mental health advisory board is calling for more housing, licensed beds and coordination. CEO Lee Davis, who also has bipolar disorder, says she is lucky to respond to medication and keep a home and a job.

But living with the disorder can also mean repeatedly shouting a racial slander to remove them from the universe, thinking that your cats’ napping will make up for their lack of sleep, or breaking a window because “inside and outside are merging” have to.

Mania shouldn’t be criminalized, she says. “Why isn’t there a number to call to report a mental crisis?”

Chaumette has worked in the criminal justice system for decades, mostly for offenses that resulted in suspended sentences. It is unclear what kind of help he might have received from the courts as health records are confidential and taboo even to the family.

Suzette Chaumette is skeptical of promises made by politicians.

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“His life is so much more than the mental illness that has gripped him all his life,” she said, adding that she wanted people to “see him as a person, not just a case – that he really had an opportunity has in life. ”

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