CNN aired This Life With Lisa Ling Sunday, September 25, 2016 - "Welcome to America's Largest Jail." Teresa Pasquini's (See post Teresa and Danny) reaction follows:
I forced myself to watch this last night even though I knew it would hurt. My day had started with my daily phone call from Danny. When he calls the message states, "You are receiving a call from an inmate at Napa Department of Corrections." I always hate hearing that but then I accept the call and hear my boy's sweet voice and know that I have to pull it together and give Danny the best 10 minutes of his day. Hearing his voice is always one of the best parts of my day. But, it hurts.
So, last night when I watched this segment inside the LA County jail system Danny was with me but many others were, too. My brother had once been arrested during a psychotic break in LA. I forget how we even knew he was there but I remember that both he and Danny were in crisis at the same time. I remember reaching out to the Contra Costa County Conservator who had helped me with Danny. He helped my elderly parents navigate the jail system in LA. He got him out of there and back home and into a hospital, thank God! He was a partner in care who I will always remember.
As I heard about the description of the "exploding mental health population" inside of the LA County jail system, I thought of my own county jail here in Contra Costa whose mental health population has also exploded. I thought of the staff I have come to respect so deeply here in my own county being exposed to the conditions described in this segment like gassing, assaults and the crumbling infrastructure. I thought of the safety and sanity of my partners in care, both law enforcement and health. I thought about how they too must continuously balance "constitutional rights and employee safety" and public safety. It is such a chaotic dance that I have come to know too well.
But what hurt the most watching this segment, was the description of the mental health inmates being "chained to tables" and the casual comment that "we don't have the mental health facility in California right now..." that would provide the right care. I was screaming at the TV that California should have those facilities. We have the money from Prop 63/MHSA. Or, we had the money but where did it all go? Nobody knows according to the State Auditor, State Finance Department and Little Hoover Commission reports and audits. And now, there is a 60% increase in the jail mental health population.
So, please remember that while California spends millions of mental health dollars on coloring books, yoga, hip/hop car washes and fluff, we CHAIN people with serious mental illnesses to tables. They are tortured by seclusion and inhumanity because we designed it this way and too few want to call it out. We ALL have to start calling it out...everywhere, everyday, every way.
This segment should be required viewing for every MHSA Stakeholder group in CA and every county Supervisor who approves their county mental health budget. It should also be shown to every state legislator, Diana Dooley, California's Secretary of Health and Human Services and Governor Brown. Oh, and the U.S. Senate should be required to watch it before they leave on their "extended break." It is time to #PassHR2646 in the Senate and #GetReal63MHSA in CA.