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.