SHAPLEIGH — My 36-year-old son was standing on our back deck screaming at me. My husband approached my son and said calmly, “Hey, that’s not cool. Please don’t yell at your mom that way.” My son moved to within inches of my husband’s face and, still screaming, threatened to attack him.

I’m the parent of a man who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, a mental health condition that includes symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder. He also suffers from anosognosia, a neurological condition that robs him of any awareness of his illness. It’s the No. 1 reason why people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder refuse medication and do not seek help.

My son developed schizoaffective disorder after he went off to college at the age of 18. Over the years, he’s been homeless, jailed, missing, beaten up and hospitalized 43 times. It wasn’t until we were able to get him into Maine’s progressive treatment program – which creates a team of support workers – that he finally began to have a decent quality of life and was able to live in his own apartment and pursue a career in music.

Recently, however, my son’s treatment team mistakenly gave him a much-decreased dose of his regularly scheduled medication, and his medical condition rapidly deteriorated. He’s been in crisis and living at my house since July 5 because he’s currently too ill to live in his apartment.

I called the Maine Crisis Hotline; the people I talked to told me they couldn’t come because my son had been drinking, and asked if I wanted the police instead. I said I did want the police to come, but I was worried my son might get shot if the officer who showed up didn’t have crisis intervention team training.

The hotline sent two police officers to my house. When asked how they would approach the situation, one of the officers said, “If I feel threatened, I will shoot him.” Based on this interaction, my husband and I declined their offer to do a “wellness check” on my son.

The next day, my son’s treatment team attempted to “green paper” him. The green paper – the form used to request the involuntary committal of a person in a progressive treatment program – was declined by a judge. One reason cited was that the progressive treatment program had been ordered in another community. The judge said my son’s treatment team would have to apply for the green paper in the same community where the progressive treatment program originated.

A green paper is applied for where the patient is located at the moment, not where the progressive treatment program originated. This was clearly a case of a judge simply not understanding how the program works.

When will the state of Maine care about those individuals suffering from serious mental illness who lack the capacity to seek help on their own and their families? When will the state of Maine care about the others whose lives are also put at risk by the state’s refusal to provide a mechanism by which folks can get help before a crisis presents “imminent danger to self or others”? We try to treat cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage. Why is there no way a family can get care before their loved one’s illness reaches stage 4?

Possible solutions to these problems exist (I explore them at, but Maine will have to commit to them.

When will Maine embrace its progressive treatment program, requiring care providers to use it on behalf of those who don’t know they’re sick and educating our judges, care providers and police officers so the program can be carried out effectively?

When will Maine ensure that 25 percent of its police officers undergo crisis intervention training and 75 percent get mental health first aid training, as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and CIT International recommend?

When will Maine ensure that there are psychiatric hospital beds available for those in crisis and those whose illness doesn’t respond to treatment?

When will Maine provide adequate services and supportive and independent housing for those suffering from serious mental illness?

When will Maine understand this is not about a person’s civil rights? There’s absolutely nothing civil or right about allowing someone to remain untreated, psychotic and dying on the street, or in a jail cell where they don’t belong.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.