BEL AIR, Calif. — Fear is something Julie never thought she would feel towards her only son.
“You know, you love your child, but you’re still afraid,” said Julie, whose last name Spectrum News 1 is concealing to protect her identity.
What You Need To Know
- About half of people killed by police have mental health issues, according to the Ruderman Family Foundation
- Mental health experts say it is bed capacity, not just transportation, that is their biggest challenge
- An LA Times analysis found that as many as 76% of LA Homeless people are mentally ill or have a substance abuse issue
- Launching in January, the Therapeutic Transportation Pilot Program will use unarmed workers to help transport mentally ill people to care centers
Julie confides in her friend Sharon Dunas what literally makes her lock her bedroom door at night.
“I have to say I am afraid now. Although my son is living with me, I am a little afraid because when he was a little boy he did say, he told a couple of people that, he had thoughts to kill his mother,” said Julie.
Her son is an adult in his 50s who suffers from psychosis and has put her in the hospital multiple times.
“He hit me so hard, and I had to drop down," she said. "I fell down, and that’s when I managed and I said, 'Please don’t kill me, please.' And I did run across the street to these two wonderful men and they called the police."
The police were her saviors that night, but at times she worries that might not be the case. After all, just in October, an L.A. Sheriff’s deputy shot a man suffering a psychiatric episode inside the University of California Los Angeles' Medical Center.
A report by the Ruderman Family Foundation indicates that about half of all people killed by police are disabled.
Dunas, who is a licensed psychotherapist and co-president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for West Los Angeles, said this can make some families think twice before dialing 911.
“I think families are always kind of frightened and tentative about calling police,” said Dunas.
Since the L.A. County Board of Supervisors agrees, the Therapeutic Transportation Pilot Program will be launched in January. It will use unarmed workers to help transport mentally ill people to care centers.
However, Dunas — who has been working in mental health for 25 years — said that is not enough. After all, the biggest challenge for her clients and Julie is not transportation as much as it is bed capacity.
“There’s just not enough psych beds or places to put [sic]; there is not enough housing for mentally ill people," said Dunas. "We have institutes for mental health that are not very well kept, that are not very well maintained. And there are not enough, there’s just not enough."
But Julie hopes this focus on the mental health system will lead to other important changes that won’t force her to compromise her safety for her son’s.
"When you have a child, you love them, but it is sort of scary," she said. "I do feel it’s very important that he does live another place."
Until important changes happen within the mental health system, Julie will keep locking her bedroom door at night.