When a Mentally Ill Child Becomes a Mentally Ill Adult

OC parents find they are out of care options unless Laura's Law is adopted

His 30-year-old son, Philip, has spent a decade suffering from schizophrenia and spends most of his days roaming the streets of Anaheim and Garden Grove. Whenever the elder Camacho gets a phone call saying his son has been arrested, he's relieved. "When he's in jail, I feel more comfortable because at least I know where he's at," he says.

Camacho says his son sometimes stays with his mother and stepfather in Anaheim, but as soon as Phillip starts getting paranoid and feeling confined, he'll take off, and no one can stop him. The family tried giving him a cell phone, but as soon as he felt they were trying to control his life, Phillip threw it on the ground and smashed it. Camacho says his ex-wife went so far as to file a restraining order against her son so that he would be taken into custody if he violated it. Kelly Thomas' mother, Cathy, tried the same approach in seeking help.

"What hurts inside is that you know it's not going to end good," Camacho says. "When his final chapter is written, there's going to be a lot of heartache. He's gonna do something to somebody, or someone's gonna do something to him. It's agonizing."

Now that her son, Matthew, is legally an adult, Jennifer Hoff can't get him the treatment she believes he needs
Kenneth M. Ruggiano
Now that her son, Matthew, is legally an adult, Jennifer Hoff can't get him the treatment she believes he needs
Photos of Matt Hoff
Kenneth M. Ruggiano
Photos of Matt Hoff

He adds, "I just hope I never get that call—but I know I will. I dread that day. I dread that day."

* * *

Under the LPS Act, any qualified California officer or clinician may issue a 5150 to patients whom they believe are a danger to others or themselves or gravely disabled. There are extensions available—a 5250 can a hold a patient for 14 days, and the 5270 for 30 days—but a court-appointed commissioner must uphold them. At a time when the state has eliminated a large number of hospital beds because of budget cuts, the process is rarely initiated.

What many parents or guardians wish for is the holy grail of control: an LPS conservatorship, which would allow them to legally make medical decisions for their adult child for up to one year.

Nomi Lonky of Yorba Linda was able to get a conservatorship in 2001 for her son, Jeffrey Hoblin, after being trapped in what she and other family members of mentally ill patients refer to as the "revolving door," the common maze of group homes, hospitals, jails and independent living.

While he was in college, Hoblin started hearing "very evil" voices, ones that "told him to kill himself," Lonky recalls. At 20, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective bipolar disorder (a sort of cross between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and in the few years that followed, he tried to end his life five times. Usually high on meth, he would lie on the train tracks in Anaheim, where authorities would find him, and then take him to the hospital, where he would stay for 72 hours under a 5150. When his time was up, a doctor would ask him, "Jeffrey, do you plan to hurt yourself?" and he'd say, "No, I'm not going to hurt myself," only to return to the tracks weeks or months later.

Lonky says her son has always been "brilliantly smart"—he maintained good grades and was the lead drummer in a band—which worked against him in getting treatment. Mental illness is not an intellectual disability, and most patients can present themselves in a rational manner. And authorities won't hospitalize people unless they're gravely disabled, which is defined as the present inability to provide for one's basic, personal need for food, clothing or shelter.

"[Authorities] don't treat other illnesses this way," Lonky says. "They don't wait until you're on your deathbed. If you told a woman with Stage 4 breast cancer that she had to get sicker before she could get treatment, people's heads would roll."

While Hoblin was under a 72-hour hold after the fifth time he tried to commit suicide, Lonky and her husband, both health-care professionals, wrote a letter to the doctor. "It has become painfully clear to us that short-term, acute-care intervention is not working!" it read. She added that the mental-health-care system has simply been "placing a Band-Aid on a person who is hemorrhaging" and that without an extended hospitalization, "one of these days, Jeff will be successful in his suicide attempt."

The letter was enough to get Hoblin on a 14-day hold, and from there, Lonky was granted a temporary 30-day conservatorship (or T-con), and then a full-year conservatorship, with Hoblin's consent (which is required if a patient is not deemed gravely disabled). She immediately got him into treatment at Royale Health Care Center, a locked psychiatric facility in Santa Ana, where he stayed for three months. The program kept him away from drugs and got him adjusted to a medication plan. "By the time he came out, he was thinking rationally enough to say, 'I do need to stay in treatment,'" Lonky says. Nine months into his conservatorship, Hoblin got a job at a Wal-Mart.

The now-34-year-old Hoblin lives on his own in Orange. He still hears voices, but he knows they're not real, Lonky says. While her son still struggles, she believes that getting the conservatorship helped to bring him to a point of stability.

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21 comments
caujul
caujul

My son is 27 and mentally Ill. He was diagnosed at the age of 16. He is paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar, and manic depressive.   He spent the last 6 month in and out of hospitals psych ward. I tried filing commitment papers to have him institutionalize, but court decided he did not need it and placed him on 90 days probation outpatient treatment. Treatment plan included taking medication and see his therapist. I finally had him institutionalize for 14 days for non-compliance. He's out and not taking his medication daily. It is only a matter of time before he have another episode and I will have to called the police because he gets very violent. They usually hold him for a few hours and release him because they are very familiar with his condition. Sometimes, I feel as if I am the one with the mental problem. I have no help or support from family.  They feel that I am just making excuses for his behavior.

yfuji60
yfuji60

carlsbadvillage

There are ways... see a lawyer IF you can pay the fee... if not either way, you could go broke.

If YOU call in for a 5150... YOU pay the bills.   You try to get help like Med-cal or financial assistance from social security... You need permission to speak on their behalf.  You pay their bills and when there is a refund the refund in payable to the adult child.. You need to have a Psychologist to help you get financial or medical assistance.... how do YOU get it if the adult child will not seek medical help...No where to go.

debbie_jane_goff
debbie_jane_goff

This could be my story the names and locations different but this is my story I'm living thru. Right now and the last 3 years. How many times he has gone missing months even a year. Always waiting for the phone to. Ring and tell

JaySea
JaySea

Very informative and well written, Ms. Woo...covered all bases and educated me about a serious impending problem in our society, thank you...I wish all the best for these families.

Gericault
Gericault

Moorlach is being disingenuous with comparing the size of Nevada County with the size of Orange County. Nevada county has a budget of 729 million. Orange County spends more than that just on social services now, out of a total budget of 5.6 Billion ( with a "B").Everyday, OC Supervisors wade through a sea of homeless people living at the Civic Center, can't he see that?

Adam Goldman
Adam Goldman

An interesting article about mental health issues in O.C.

Jyates
Jyates

Thanks Ms Woo for writing about this subject. Maybe more people will come to understand that mental illness is not a character flaw - it's a biological brain disorder! It's especially frustrating when our laws now prevent parents from getting needed help for their adult children. I certainly hope Laura's Law will be enacted in Orange County.

Shiv825
Shiv825

Great article Michelle. In elementary school we see some kids who don't get help because their parents are in denial. It's sad to see the other end, once the kids reach 18, and they are unable to get help because of the law.

ALBERTA
ALBERTA

@Tcpasquini My friend's ṁoṁ brouǵht in $16670 the ṗrior ṁonťh. she is geťťinǵ ṗaid on the inťerneť and bought a $471OOO hoṁe. All she did was ǵeť luckÿ and ṗut in acťion the insťrucťions uncovered on this siťe..MakeCash2.com

Tcpasquini
Tcpasquini

Thank you Michelle Woo and the OC Register for this illuminating and powerful article.

My Danny was hospitalized on his 18th Birthday and our world changed just like the families in this article. Overnight we were told that we could not help him unless he wanted our help. Even though his brain told him he was ok, he wasn't ok. He needed help from a system that no longer allowed his mom and dad to keep him safe. To keep him safe we had to abandon him, put him in harms way and then fight the world to provide him treatment. Why does it have to be this way?

I met Jennifer Hoff on Facebook during her search for her son. She is a force. We moms and dads are on a team that we never wanted to join. We will continue to tell our stories and burn them into the collective conscience of our California communities.

I live in Contra Costa County where we have had numerous parents murdered by their children with psychiatric disabilities. All were preventable tragedies. Alameda County is our neighbor and had a recent preventable murder in the Berkeley Hills. An innocent family of our community was destroyed because a young man was not kept safe by a sick system. His family tried valiantly to get him the help he needed.

Our California counties and communities are connected by the slender thread of hope that one day there will be sanity restored to the mental health system. Civil Commitment Law Reform must happen. We don't want "special laws," we just want laws that are already exist to be implemented.

Laderamommy
Laderamommy

Michelle, thank you so much for your time spent shedding light on Matts story and an issue that continues to be sidestepped by our elected officials, despite a growing public consciousness burning low and slow.... as a community and culture we have not seemed to get a grip on how to prevent "preventable" tragedies. Without serious Civil Commitment Law Reform (Laura's Law, Kendra's Law and much much MORE) we will never see a decrease in violence to our sick loved ones nor a change in the horrific collateral  damage associated with untreated severe chronic psychiatric illness.  This issue is not being properly addressed in Orange County by our County Board of Supervisors or Director of Behavioral Health. They know it. I do not know what they are waiting for next to happen before taking any clear action or position. How many more families have to loose loved ones to these illnesses before our leaders realize that ignoring severe mental illness does not make it go away.Thank you again for caring enough to take action.Warmly,Jennifer Hoff

Tron Carter
Tron Carter

Sprawling Ladera Ranch home and she can't provide for him???These kinds of people are dangerous and should be off the streets.

CarlsbadVillageOrthodontist
CarlsbadVillageOrthodontist

Ah so he chose to leave the care of his parents? But shouldn't there be a special law for people with mental disabilities, that gives certain powers to their parents at least medically? It's such a sad thing to happen to anyone.

MommyDissident
MommyDissident

@Gericault We have been at End Homeless Comission meetings where our local non profit groups have actually debated with the county because they know our Health Agency under estimate the actually homeless count by design. Our non profits in Santa Ana are the lifeblood for most homeless while our County chioses to ignore the "gravely disabled" portion of the LPS Law despite many at the civic center "thinking they are from the sky"...instead of saving lives with our 6 billion (MHSA/Prop 63) they tout their "successes" in self made pie charts at dog n pony shows ... their "outreach and engagement" for folks who could otherwise navigate the system of Recovery Model FSP bs. I am sickened by the greed that permeates our top administration and how they Publicity Reject Laura's Law.

Jonmurra
Jonmurra

How to you argue with"Stupid"?

Jyates
Jyates

Get educated on mental illness before you judge something you have not experienced.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

You're demonstrating your complete lack of ability to grasp the concept of the article. She could be Melinda Gates and control a multi-billion-dollar foundation and she still would have exactly the same amount of power over her age-of-majority son as the poorest day laborer: zero.

But if you believe these kinds of people are dangerous and should be off the streets, stretch your hands and write a letter to your Orange County Supervisor to adopt Laura's Law, which would do exactly that.

opinion33
opinion33

its amazing how you can read this article and miss the whole point..you only focus in on their home...no amount of money can house or contain a mentally ill child who refuses medical care and the care of their parents. Their 18 yr old son has the civil liberty to refuse-even when hes incompassitated and unable to make rational decisions on his own behalf due to being cognitively impaired. Its not against the law to be psychotic and delusional-only of that behavior becomes a danger to self and other, which we keep witnessing in the headlines of the newspapers is way too late (the irag mentally vet stabbing homeless people, the Seal beach hair salon massaquere, the Kelly Thomas story) there is no way in this county to stop a potentail tragedy-most patients with brain disorders are down at central jail..same place Kelly Thomas was headed before he was beaten to death. Its nearly impossible to live on the streets and not commit or be victimized. But all mental health care s 100% voluntary-and 50% of the patients are uanble to access that system due to being too ill to understand their need for medication. Their sick brains tell them they are fine.

Luvssinatra
Luvssinatra

Really "Tron" you are basing a big problem in the govenment with your prejudice against people who have made a good living? These "people" are trying to get their son help and you post this kind of stuff? Ask yourself this, "If my son was an adult who could do anything he wished... despite YOUR monitary situation, what would you do?" You have no right to judge. God is the ultimate Judge and you have no right to say anything until you have walked at least a mile in their shoes.

yfuji60
yfuji60

@CarlsbadVillageOrthodontist 

There is, if you seek a lawyer's help...pay the big fee.  Interesting part, if you call in and get the adult child for 5150, you end up paying the bills.  If you try to get assistance, like medi cal... the adult child need to speak or give parent permission to talk to agent..You pay their bills, but you can't speak on their behave... you get a refund,it's written to the adult child... Hello? 

No where else to go

 
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