The importance of a continuum of care

– Meet Lisa

When Lisa’s son Ryan experienced a marijuana-induced psychotic episode in 2015 at 15, she scrambled to get him help. “His behavior was extreme, and he was angry and delusional, and we were just at a loss,” she said. He ended up being a “5150” – the Welfare and Institutions Code that allows someone who presents as a danger to himself or others to be involuntarily detained for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalization evaluation.

The ordeal was traumatic for the entire family, most of all Ryan. “When he was released, we were throwing a bunch of intensive mental health programs at him and for us as a family. We were trying to figure it out, but nothing stuck.”

Fast forward through years and additional episodes. Ryan was showing increasing signs of mania and psychosis and just started spinning more and more out of control. He was paranoid; he often thought people were chasing him, used poor judgment and was belligerent.

“The system is so crazy,” says Lisa,” because you can’t help them unless they want help. But yet, in that state, they don’t want help. So, what do you do? At this point, he was off all medications. Although he had finished some college prerequisites and could function, living at home wasn’t working because he was coming in at all hours of the night, waking us all up when we had to work in the morning, and just being super disrespectful.”

Ryan needed a safe and supportive place to live, but where? Now 23, Ryan had never lived outside the home. Lisa had heard of Buckelew and thought they had resources for jobs, mental healthcare, and maybe housing. Lisa connected with Nicole, a caseworker with Buckelew’s Service Navigation Program, who reached out to Ryan.

Nicole was the one who started the whole process of his healing.

“Her presence, her gentleness and her words are amazing. Her approach was logical,” says Lisa. Nicole suggested Ryan try various things; if something doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to keep doing it. She asked him, “Don’t you want to start to feel better? How about making an appointment with your psychiatrist?”

After many failed attempts to seek services to support his mental health, Nicole’s approach seemed to work. Nicole went with him to his appointment. Ryan even signed the release for her to be in the room with the psychiatrist and him. At the end of the visit, the doctor prescribed a medication, and Ryan said,” I’m not going to take that.” Again, Nicole was ever so gentle and said, “You might want to try. If you don’t like it, you can stop. It doesn’t have to be forever, but you want to feel better. You want to sleep better. You want just to feel better and get on with your life, get a job and manage daily interactions.”

“Being a Family Service Coordinator is all about relationships and connections,” says Nicole. “People are much more than their challenges; sometimes they just need someone to hold them accountable or help them achieve their goals.”

Today, Ryan’s working to get a car and looking for opportunities as a radiology technician, and he sees a therapist weekly. “He’s in a much better place,” says Lisa.

Lisa and her husband attribute Ryan’s success to Buckelew’s continuum of care. They also say that one of the most comforting things about supporting “their son and his work with Buckelew was that most staff have personal experience with mental health and substance use, whether themselves or a family member. “Just in terms of empathy, to have someone who’s been there to hear you out was huge for us,” says Lisa.

Lisa says of Nicole, “I think she’s our little angel. She came into our life at a time when we’d gone through this so many times before with Ryan, and nothing worked.”

“Often, reaching out for help is the hardest part,” says Nicole. “So, I feel immense pride that families trust us enough to seek guidance and support. And, although relationships and connections take time, when FSC can make a positive impact, we acknowledge that and don’t take it lightly. Helping people get on the right path to making changes in their lives is one of my favorite parts of this work.”