My son, Dillon McCandless, is 29 years old. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2014 after we had him involuntarily committed to the state hospital here in Idaho. When he was released, we thought that medication was all that he needed.
Dillon saw a psychiatrist twice after his release. He did well for about a year-and-a-half and he thought he was cured and went off the medication. It wasn't long and his symptoms returned. We got him back on the medication but it never really worked well the second time around, and he began to use drugs and alcohol to cope. This made everything worse. We tried to get him back into the hospital but we were unsuccessful in our attempts. We went to the prosecutor over mental health and he said, “If he isn't a danger to himself or other's, it won't happen.” We tried the state hospital and our local mental health office.
Five weeks later, while having a psychotic episode, our son robbed a casino that was on the Indian reservation making this a federal crime. We told his lawyer of his illness and asked him if there was something he could do to get him some help. He said, "We don't help people here." We didn't like his answer so we met with the federal prosecutor and Dillon’s lawyer together. Instead of getting him help, they sent him to San Diego for a competency evaluation to see if he was competent to stand trial.
Dillon was gone almost three months and, when he returned, he had lost 45 pounds. He was moved six times before making his way back to Idaho. The report stated he was competent to stand trial. At his competency hearing, the judge could see he was having problems. The judge ordered the prosecutor and our son's attorney to get a psychiatrist to see him on a regular basis and adjust his medications if needed. This never happened. (We have the audio recording of this order.) Dillon was in a county jail here in Idaho (A federal hold jail).
The physicians assistant prescribing didn't know what she was doing. She let Dillon prescribe his own medications but didn't know how to dose him. At times, the jail didn't medicate him at all and let him go cold turkey. He began to self-destruct and broke his foot. At the time of his change of plea hearing, he was unmedicated and walking on a broken foot. Later, he broke his hand. His lawyer did nothing for him. He told us the reason no psychiatrist saw our son was because the US marshal refused to pay for one, but we found out the request wasn't made. The prosecutor who was ordered to get the psychiatrist said, "Well, you don't get Cadillac care in jail."
Our son got worse and punched a guard, and the guard broke Dillon’s shoulder. Inmates called us and told us they knew Dillon was going downhill. They were requesting medications for him. He wasn't able to even get ibuprofen. We called his lawyer, county mental health, the jail, and the judge. Dillon's cellmate told us that Dillon was building a fort under his bed and hiding in it. Even the guards weren't helping him. It took the jail 60 days to X-ray Dillon’s broken foot, several weeks to X-ray his hand, and a week to X-ray his shoulder.
After the altercation with the guard, Dillon was tased and put in isolation and tried to kill himself. He was taken, by ambulance, to the local hospital to have his wrists glued shut. After the suicide attempt, the county tried to get him into the state hospital. We made a personal visit to the county prosecutor. He was getting paperwork filled out but the US marshal refused to let him go to a hospital. The prosecutor was shocked by this.
Instead of getting him help, the authorities moved Dillon to another county jail and moved up his sentencing date. Inaccurate information about medication compliance was used against him in the pre-sentencing report. He was given nine years — two years for the robbery and seven years for use of a firearm. Pretty harsh for a first offense.
Dillon was moved from Idaho to Victorville, California. While he was there, a Dr. Doman said, “I have no idea why he was sent here. He is too sick for us to take care of him.” She moved him to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. We were hoping that they would help him but nothing happened. Instead, he was in the SHU (the hole) for most of four months.
Dillon was refusing to take medication. He was given a shot of thorazine when he first arrived and he hated it. They wouldn't give him the anti-anxiety medication he wanted so he refused anti-psychotics. To insure he didn't cause any problems unmedicated, they put him in the hole. They said, “We can't help him if he won't take medication.” In the federal system, they don't have to medicate you if you choose not to be medicated. I believe it’s the same for the state.
Last month, Dillon was moved to Sheridan, Oregon. We saw him two weeks ago and he looks terrible. He’s very thin and still unmedicated. Our visit didn't go well because he struggled to answer our questions. He said "what " all the time.
None of Dillon's injuries have been fixed. They’ve healed incorrectly and cause him pain. He’s declining. The federal system is a nightmare for the mentally ill. They were right when they said, "We don't help people here."
I just wanted to tell my son’s story. We all need to speak up or things won't change. I know this is a long read and I’ve left out so much. We’re still trying to get Dillon the help he needs. We have a lawyer who is trying to make sure he is getting care in Oregon, but he can't get Dillon's medical records, and we have guardianship. They say, “Dillon has to sign for them.” We keep reminding him but his memory is poor. Dillon recently had his commissary privileges taken away. He missed a roll call and pushed a wrong button. He can't think straight without medication. The mentally ill are usually in trouble.
A few days ago, KPVI had an article about Lance Quick. He lost his life after six days in prison. He went without food, water, and his medication. How incredibly sad.
There’s nothing criminal about being diagnosed with a mental illness, but it's criminal how we treat individuals with mental illness. Our system is broken. We must get involved in advocating for change for our mentally ill.