Palo Alto parents ask public's help to find missing son | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto parents ask public's help to find missing son

Andrew Pearl, who has schizophrenia, disappeared on July 11

UPDATE: Andrew Pearl was located and is safe, an employee for his father, Dr. Samuel Pearl, confirmed Friday, July 29. Pearl, 30, was located by police at La Selva Group, a facility on Forest Avenue that is run by Momentum for Mental Health, according to Palo Alto police dispatches.


The parents of a Palo Alto man who vanished 11 days ago are seeking the public's help to find their son, 30-year-old Andrew Pearl. Andrew walked out of a group home for persons disabled by mental illness on July 11 at around 5 p.m. and has not been heard from since.

Andrew is afflicted by schizophrenia and was not taking his medication, his father, Dr. Samuel Pearl, said on Thursday afternoon. He has blue eyes and brown, curly hair that he recently cut very short. He is Caucasian, 5-feet-10-inches tall, 190 pounds with a heavy build. Andrew was last seen wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt, possibly a hooded sweatshirt and white Adidas shoes with red stripes. He is quiet, soft-spoken and keeps to himself in small groups, his parents said.

Andrew was born and raised in Palo Alto, and is a 2004 Gunn High School graduate. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was around 20 or 21 years old. His medication keeps him stable, and without it he hallucinates, becomes delusional and is likely unable to care for himself or to be aware of his surroundings, which could endanger his life, his father said.

The anti-psychotic medications Andrew was taking have severe side effects, so he stopped taking his medicine in March or April and was hospitalized for three weeks starting Memorial Day weekend, his parents said.

Andrew was transferred to transitional housing at La Selva House near downtown Palo Alto, where he stayed for 10 days. But his father said that Andrew was released into independent living too soon. His insurance company refused to continue to pay for his supervised care at La Selva based on a formula rather than the symptoms he exhibited -- a frustration for many families with loved ones who require hospitalization and other supervised care.

Andrew was sent to Middlefield House, a group independent-living residence in Palo Alto where no one monitors if the patient takes his or her medication, Pearl said, who had objected to the transfer. He did not feel that his son was ready for independent living, he said.

When it became clear that Andrew wasn't taking his medication while at Middlefield House, the Pearls tried to get him returned to La Selva, where he has done well in the past. But the insurer decided that he could stay at Middlefield House, and the company would pay for someone to watch him take his medication nightly. Andrew fled the facility when an outreach worker informed him that his medicine-taking would be monitored nightly. He told the worker that he did not want to take the medication and walked out, Pearl said.

Andrew walked along Hamilton Avenue until he reached the Epiphany Hotel at the corner of Emerson Street. He threw his cellphone, containing all of his personal contacts, into the planter box and disappeared, Pearl said. Staff later located the cellphone, which Pearl now has in his possession.

Andrew has not contacted anyone since his disappearance, his father said. He thinks that his son might have ditched his wallet somewhere else after getting rid of his cellphone. His family is shocked that he has taken these steps, as he has never run off during prior episodes when he became ill, Pearl said.

"Since he's been gone, we have contacted so many of his friends. Through his text messages we learned that he knows a ton of people," Pearl said. "He is very friendly and non-confrontational."

Like anyone's son or daughter, Andrew had a promising future, but it was detoured by his severe illness, Pearl said. He had high scholastic test scores and could have gone to college; he was a good athlete and was involved in national championship soccer at around age 10 or 11. He was also a professional skateboarder and is well known in that community.

Growing up, Andrew was always nice, respectful and friendly. He was never a problem, Pearl said. But late in his high school years he began to do things that were out of character, including cutting classes and not wanting to attend college, despite good grades.

People who make contact with Andrew will likely encounter a man who is noticeably disabled, Pearl said. He may have hallucinations and delusions and will be unable to make eye contact. Andrew will increasingly become less aware of his surroundings as the ever-present voices he hears take over, his father said, and as the voices become more dominant, they blend with reality.

"I'm afraid he could be hit by a car," his father said. "He gets very distracted. He starts talking to himself more. He will be talking to the voices that he hears."

Pearl said he fears that Andrew may face death the longer he remains delusional.

"He gets more paranoid. He can become dehydrated and stop eating and he could die. If we find him weeks from now he could be dead or near death," he said.

Andrew knows many local shopkeepers and also homeless and near-homeless people. He received treatment at Momentum for Mental Health on California Avenue for many years. Pearl said that he might have found shelter in a homeless encampment. For a while, his parents thought he might have boarded a train or bus, but there were some sightings of Andrew in downtown, which gives his family hope that he may still be in Palo Alto.

There have been reported sightings on July 14 or 15, but the only credible one was behind Round Table Pizza on University Avenue, Pearl said.

Like many parents of adult children with mental illnesses, the Pearls are frustrated by a system that does not offer adequate support. After two weeks of being hospitalized, they had to fight to keep Andrew there for another badly needed week because the insurance company did not want to pay for the additional services, his parents said.

After three weeks in the hospital and 10 days at La Selva, Andrew improved greatly, but he still needed time -- time that was not going to be allowed under an insurance company's formula for his care rather than the stage of his medical condition, Pearl said. The average time that someone with Andrew's condition needs to get better when medicated takes about six weeks, he added.

"Moving him to Middlefield House -- it's too big of a jump. It was a big mistake not having supervision. He definitely needed at least another month of observation," Pearl said.

Mental illness is still a stigma that makes getting at-par treatment with other medical conditions difficult to obtain, Pearl said.

"When you have an ear infection, you might be on antibiotics," he said, noting that the treatment for just about any other illness would be continued until the patient is better.

Mental illnesses are recognized medical conditions, however, institutionalized attitudes and the insurance system have not kept up with science, he said.

"It's not being treated like rheumatoid arthritis or heart disease or diabetes. Because of that, (Andrew's) lost to the streets -- because of an insurance denial," Pearl said.

The Pearls have put up fliers around the city to ask people to help find Andrew, and have given local police departments and other agencies information about Andrew and his condition so that officers who might encounter him will be aware that he is ill.

Pearl said he fears that his son could be hurt if officers mistake his erratic behavior. He noted that Palo Alto police fatally shot William Raff, who had mental-health issues, on Dec. 25, 2015, after charging at police officers with a table knife.

Raff was living at La Selva House, just two blocks from the apartments where Andrew then lived. Andrew did not see the shooting, his father said, but he filmed the large police and emergency response in the aftermath. And that is a nightmare scenario that any parent of a child with severe mental illness might fear.

Anyone who has information about Andrew's whereabouts is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department at 650-329-2413 or the Pearl family at 650-776-6713 or 650-776-6715.


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28 people like this
Posted by Laura
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 22, 2016 at 10:35 pm

Thank you for running this story. Please post a picture of Andrew to help us be able to recognize him.

25 people like this
Posted by Bernie's right.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2016 at 1:46 am

Single-payer universal health care for all. This is ridiculous.
I hope for the best that this guy is found and can get the care and
maintenance that he needs and deserves.

25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2016 at 7:29 am

This is such a sad story.

Why are the local tv media not reporting this? Apart from helping to find Andrew it could also be a story of insurance companies and how they treat mental health.

Please keep us updated on the search.

8 people like this
Posted by Korene
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2016 at 7:47 am

Please post a picture. I am going to Menlo
park and PA today and will keep my eyes open. Let's get your boy home!

8 people like this
Posted by Holly
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 23, 2016 at 9:59 am

Please post his picture. I will look out for him in Berkeley. In many group homes meds are supervised. Most of the cost is covered by social security. God bless.

5 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2016 at 10:01 am

There's a picture of the missing man on a related post/news story. Web Link

16 people like this
Posted by Emily
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Thank you community. I am Andrew's older sister. There was an earlier post about Andrew's disappearance, with a photo, that can be found here:

Web Link

If you use Facebook there is a digital version of flyer on a page we created, along with other photos and information, type "Help Find Andrew" in the search box to take you there. You can also send a message on the page if you'd like me to send you the flyer directly to your email address.
Web Link

His family misses him dearly and we are incredibly worried. Thank you so much for helping us.

32 people like this
Posted by Don"t Be Cruel
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 23, 2016 at 4:18 pm

The son of a friend of ours was schizophrenic. From time to time, he would feel that he no longer needed his meds and would go off of them. Then he would leave town and do something stupid, like gamble away his life's savings, get himself arrested, and be brought back home. One time he stole his mother's car and sold it, went to Las Vegas, and spent all the money on hookers. Got himself arrested again, and was then shipped home at his mother's expense.

Eventually, he learned his lesson and came to the conclusion that he did indeed need the meds to keep the voices away, but by then he was 50 years old!

1 person likes this
Posted by HOPEFUL
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 24, 2016 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed; please do not use all caps.]

11 people like this
Posted by Kathy Marsh
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 24, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Andrew Pearl is one of the sweetest people we have ever known. He has been friends of our son since kindergarten. Please everyone put the link on your social media pages and encourage your contacts to re-post, and keep this in the forefront of our minds to look for Andrew.

1 person likes this
Posted by Seth
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 24, 2016 at 8:57 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by mom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 24, 2016 at 9:58 pm

[Post removed.]

14 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 25, 2016 at 10:54 am

Heartbreaking. This is absolutely one of the most difficult things a family can deal with. Services for mental illness are woefully underfunded and insurance companies provide little to no coverage.
My thoughts are with the Pearl family.

8 people like this
Posted by John Jacobs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Unfortunately, the Pearls' story is a familiar one to those families who deal with mental illness. The illnesses themselves are very difficult to manage, but then when decisions are made for insurance purposes rather the well-being of the patient, it makes everything worse. I will also keep my eye out for Andrew when biking or driving around town.

P.S. For people looking for support in dealing with mental illness in your family, I suggest going to the NAMI (Nat'l Alliance on Mental Illness) website at where you can find a list of support groups, programs and general information to help in your difficult journey.

4 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 25, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Just posted to Instagram @mentalhealthSELPA1. Sending love to Andrew's family.

Like this comment
Posted by Angel
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2016 at 5:38 pm

There is WAY too much information here. Help us help you.
I suggest creating 2 sections.
In the top section add a large picture (several would be better) and specific information about where he might be and ideas on how to watch for him. A map with routes or likely hangouts, etc.
The bottom section: All the back story.

The best of luck - we will keep our eyes open up here in San Mateo.

Like this comment
Posted by Angel
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Addition to my previous comment.
Use this site to create a poster with a big picture and phone number that people can download, print, share and post around their neighborhoods.

3 people like this
Posted by Emily
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Hi Angel,

Thanks for your input. The original notification, which is much shorter and includes his photo and stats, is located here:
Web Link

If there is a way to upload the flyer we have to this article I will do so others may download it. PA Online, any input on this?

Thank you

3 people like this
Posted by Yarsh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 27, 2016 at 11:50 am

Here we go again with another case mis-managed by La Selva, the $10,000/month subsidiary of Momentum for Mental Health, a non-profit out of San Jose. Here we go again with selectively biased reporting. Last time, with the very sad death of William Raff, the police were blamed; this time, it’s the insurance industry. Nevermind that in both instances the person was a patient at the same mental health facility. Reporter Sue: if you are going to reference the event in December, should you not also mention that the investigation showed the police not at fault? Web Link. Or, from your own online newspaper:

"The totality of the evidence leads only to the conclusion that William Raff was intent on dying at the hands of police officers on Dec. 25, 2015," prosecutor Charles Gillingham wrote in the report, which was based on an investigation by the Palo Alto Police Department. "William Raff called 911 that night to create a fake emergency and draw an armed response from the police. Raff then committed suicide by attacking the officers, who shot him in self-defense."

The event in December was the completed suicide of a patient while under the care of La Selva; this week’s event is a patient gone missing while under the care of La Selva.

The strength of La Selva lies in its alumni, and the community of family members and parents, but they are not the decision-makers. The real story here lies behind the smiling faces of the business people who run Momentum for Mental Health/La Selva. Is there any relationship between Palo Alto Online’s editorial staff with Momentum for Mental Health?

To the Pearls: my sincerest hope that your son is found soon.

Like this comment
Posted by community member
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 27, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Please post a link to a flyer with his photo - I would like to print and distribute as many as I can.

4 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Palo Alto Police are reporting that Andrew has been found safe and reunited with his parents.

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