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  • Writer's pictureI Will be a Sister to You

Five Hours Later

Updated: May 8, 2019

Doing my best to navigate the system in trying to help someone.

I knew that as part of making this film I would be engaging more with my family to try and track what they each knew about my sister's death. What I didn't realize is that this film would plant me right back into the center of a situation mirroring my experiences with my sister before she died.

I have another very close relative who has been struggling with opioid addiction for over a decade...and she is still under 30. I have not been engaged over the last several years with her situation, and although I am not exactly proud of this fact, I think it is probably this project that been a catalyst for me to reconnect.

Before I report what happened yesterday morning over a period of five hours, it is important to establish this person's condition and just how impossible it is to figure out what to do to help. (Sound familiar?). She is homeless, penniless, jobless, incarcerated in a county jail, in violation of her parole, detoxing and extremely uncooperative.

Being half-way across the country doesn't help. But as the eternal optimist, I'm thinking there just has to be something I can do...

I call the local county court house to communicate to the judge that this person has a family member ready to help. By this time, she has already been in and out court and is back in the jail. No council has been assigned.

I call the Parole Officer (PO) - I asked, "why is my relative not headed back to prison if she has been in violation of Parole for months? " PO (paraphrased) answer, "Parole board doesn't seem bothered by the fact that she is using drugs and breaking the law over and over again." I say, "Ok well ummm...can you recommend a revised 'Home Plan' to that board where they would require that she go to treatment or back to prison right from jail? Doesn't this seem logical?" PO, "Well that's not so simple, but if you want to look for a rehab that will take her, we can discuss." and me, "OK, I will research a facility right now".

The good news is that she is off the streets, eating and detoxing.

I call, enticed by the FREE part. They find out that she has no insurance and no money, and I am quickly ushered along to a recording that gives me the federally sponsored resource line. But of course the recording cuts out and I have to call back. New agent, same story.

I call SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin) - they are nice enough, but politely removed and they text me rehab facilities located in the state that are close to my relative...and then referred me to the State-funded Treatment Agency

I call State-funded Agency - "um no, there are no state-funded inpatient facilities and... agent goes on to basically explain what the options are...omg, so convoluted that it will be better for me to share in the film.

To say the least, there is basically no on-the-ground help to get my relative from jail to a safe place aside from a hospital which has to be arranged by her attorney, although she doesn't have an attorney yet and is on a waiting list and no one knows, based on my call to the local public attorney's office, exactly when she will be assigned to someone.

As it turns out, my brother shares with me 4 hours in to this process, that he spoke with my jailed relative and she is willing to go to a hospital. Really? OK, now what?

I call the PO back and say, "hey there doesn't seem to be anywhere for my relative to go as there are no state-funded inpatient rehabs so what can we do?" PO, "Well last time we placed her into a hospital she walked out after getting a good night sleep and went right back 'out', so I guess its best to try to get here back in a hospital even though she may just walk out again". Thinking and saying some of this, "Really... first off why didn't you tell me there were no rehabs available, isn't this your job to know these things? And, why are your hands tied, she is in severe violation of her parole? Ok got it, it's the parole board who decides this. You think if she can just detox for a few days she will be easier to work with, but this has not worked over the last 9 months".

Our system is broken.

I sent a group text to my family stating I was very sorry that I have been out of the loop and that I am guessing this chaos is not new. I stated that maybe this time we can intervene somehow if we all work together. At least we know where she is. I asked that none of us pay her bond so we can keep it that way for a few days. I asked that we stay in communication, as this could be a turning point. I asked that we keep each other posted so that if someone makes contact, that we can all be informed and work together.

More to come!

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