Michigan has passed Kevin's Law. The first time it passed was in 2004. Then it was updated, by lowering requirements, in 2017. Kevin's Law, basically, allows the court to order outpatient treatment. Court orders can include a mandatory long acting antipsychotic shot, usually once a month, for a seriously mentally ill person — especially for those who lack insight into their own illnesses (anosognosia).
Unfortunately if you walk into most county probate court offices, the staff won’t know about Kevin’s Law. They’ll tell you to call county mental health, hire a lawyer or just kick you out. This was my experience today at Muskegon County Probate Court. I asked “May I please have the forms to fill out for Kevin's Law.”
The clerks and a judge began to communicate lots of incorrect information. The judge was intimidating. His sheriff’s deputy, was standing next to him as he yelled, “Get an attorney.”
I said, “I don't need an attorney.”
He said, “You have to go to Healthwest, County Mental Health.”
I said, “Sorry, the law doesn’t say that. A parent, neighbor, friend, teacher, doctor, social worker, sister, brother, uncle, or anyone, can file Kevin's Law. My husband and I have guardianship and the record of an independent forensic psychiatric exam.”
The reality is, it’s the responsible thing for a parent and guardian to do. Apparently, they didn’t understand that. They shooed me away. The experience shook me up. Blame lack of education and training and Michigan's policy of underfunding important initiatives. What’s the point of passing a law that is improperly funded?
Our sweet 19-year-old bi-racial son, Tyler, is a graphic artist and a musical genius. He was born drug addicted and adopted through the state of Michigan as a medically fragile baby. He has autism, bipolar disorder with psychosis, ADHD, and has suffered six traumatic brain injuries.
The state knows Ty well. We were promised a medical subsidy whereby the state would help us with his medical and psychiatric care if it was an expense that our insurance or Medicaid didn’t cover. When he needed extra treatment, we were denied. When the time came that he needed a supervised group home, the state refused. Michigan Adoption Subsidy denied us all help. County Mental Health (CMH) failed to recognize our guardianship and failed to file for group home placement and residential treatment.
We found out mental illness with autism is considered a co-morbid disease. The state is required, by law, to help. We also found out all denials were required to be done in writing not orally. CMH did not comply with this requirement.
We requested CMH to file Kevin's Law, through the Muskegon County probate court on Feb. 17th, 2017. CMH said, “We don’t know how to file Kevin's Law. We don’t know what it is.”
Our son was arrested and incarcerated while in psychosis, Feb. 18th, 2017. He was arrested for a home invasion as he was sleeping on our neighbor’s sofa. Our neighbor almost shot him but, in a split second, recognized him as the kid next door. This is the second time our son was almost shot.
Tyler had an ER doctor diagnose him with acute psychosis. He’d tried to hang himself. He had intrusive thoughts. He was delusional. We were in the ER, doctors’ offices and psychiatrists’ offices, 15 times for emergencies. CMH canceled three psychiatric appointments. CMH workers tried to access crisis care with a doctor but the psychiatrist had quit or taken a leave of absence. CMH prescribing psychiatrists were not accessible by phone when medications interacted dangerously. Ty was hospitalized only twice, for short term treatment.
The first time he was admitted, Ty was catatonic. He hadn’t eaten in almost two weeks. He was admitted to Pine Rest for a week. The second time he was admitted to Saginaw White Pines for a week. No one called us from Saginaw White Pines to say he’d be released even though HIPPA releases were signed. Our son was still in psychosis, still delusional. He was almost 4 hours from home and released without a phone call.
Our son has been found NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity) by a forensic psychiatrist. He’s still awaiting trial. His trial's been postponed for almost a year. Speedy trials are not a reality for the mentally ill. Michigan has a rule that, after 15 months of incarceration, they can release NGRI inmates without ever providing treatment at the forensic center.
Our 17-year-old son, Ty, was in psychosis and incarcerated in February 2017 with adult inmates and assaulted. Today, I went to probate court, again, to request assisted outpatient services. Please, state of Michigan Governor Snyder, and Lt. Calley, train your judges, mental health workers, lawyers, clerks, politicians, and doctors about Kevin’s Law.
We dream of the day our home is filled with Ty’s piano music again.
Note: Kimberlee West and her family have been informed that Ty has to undergo a second forensic psychiatric exam by the state — the first exam was "incomplete." It could take another 60 days for Ty to be examined. Ty's trial date had been set for January 23, 24, and 25, 2018. It's been postponed. Again.
Read more of Ty's story in the archives in the right hand column.
November 15, 2017: Hope One Day We'll Have Real Choices by Kimberlee West
August 22, 2017: Walk a Mile in Our Shoes by Kimberlee West