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A death at the Opportunity Center raises questions about security and care

A mother grieves her mentally ill son, who died after drugs were supplied by a dealer at the facility

Deborah Baldwin and Lawrence Markosian hold photos of Jeff Cutter, her son and his stepson, outside their home in Palo Alto on July 1, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Jeffrey Cutter's life came to an end in the place where he seemed to finally be protected. Cutter, 37, of Palo Alto, was found dead by his parents in his apartment at Palo Alto's Opportunity Center on June 12.

His death has raised questions for his mother, who feels that her mentally ill son didn't receive the kind of care that could've prevented the tragedy.

Deborah Baldwin spoke recently about her grief and of the inadequately funded and monitored "safety net" system that she believes failed her son.

"We planned to bring him home for dinner," Baldwin said, recalling the day they showed up at his door. "We tried and tried, but we couldn't reach him, or his phone was dead."

On the way up the elevator, at about 5:30 p.m. she didn't have a good feeling.

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"I turned to my husband and said, 'We have to understand that one of these times when we go to see him, he'll be dead.'"

When they opened his door, Cutter was lying face down on the floor. Palo Alto police later told her they found a packet that seemed to contain fentanyl, some methamphetamine and syringes.

In the weeks before his death, her son, who had gotten clean of his addiction, had told his mother about a persistent drug dealer, a woman, whom he tried to rebuff.

"I keep on telling her to go away," he'd told Baldwin.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner said Cutter died from mixed-drug toxicity: a combination of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid; 4-ANPP, a precursor to fentanyl; and methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant. His death was ruled an accident.

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Palo Alto police told Baldwin they had been trying to bust the dealers at the Opportunity Center for more than two years.

The Opportunity Center in Palo Alto. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

There were "people of interest," but they remained elusive, police had said.

Baldwin believes the Opportunity Center should do a better job of keeping the environment safe for marginalized people such as her son and keeping drug dealers out of the housing.

"The management should bring each person in and talk to them. Why has the Opportunity Center allowed this to happen and to continue? Maybe it's one of those things that there's no answer to," she said. "The OC has good people that try to help, but there's not enough manpower and programs that could possibly help."

Louis Chicoine, CEO of Abode Services, which operates the housing at the Opportunity Center, said everyone was hurting after Cutter's death.

But catching drug transactions is often difficult because they aren't done in the open and can take place behind the closed doors in people's apartments, he said.

"We take the security and welfare of our residents and staff seriously," Chicoine said.

A promising life hindered by mental illness

A youth soccer portrait of Jeff Cutter when he was 9 years old at his mother's home in Palo Alto on July 1, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Cutter's death, after years of mental illness and more recent drug use — he started self-medicating with methamphetamine a year before his death — was the saddest chapter in his and his parents' long struggle to help him regain his stability.

Afflicted with bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, he had once been a promising student who won a Governor's Scholarship Program award for high academic achievement to attend college after Palo Alto High School, his mother said.

Cutter, an intelligent and passionate person, was 20 years old when his psychiatric problems emerged. Nonetheless, he completed his undergraduate degree in management information systems at California State University, Chico. After that, his condition deteriorated and his delusions increased, Baldwin said.

He bounced in and out of the hospital and often slept outside prior to being housed at the Opportunity Center. Trying to get into county mental health rehabilitation programs proved a difficult and protracted process. So-called "wrap-around" services touted by county programs didn't work for someone as severely ill as Cutter. The programs expected him to answer the phone, schedule and remember appointments and be ready when social workers and other help providers came, Baldwin said.

One example: Cutter was discharged from Stanford Hospital on Sept. 28, 2020. He was given "urgent" referrals to psychiatry and cardiology — the latter due to heart damage from methamphetamine use. More than a week later, Stanford had not sent the paperwork over to the county and then county Behavioral Health didn't send the referral to the addiction center, Baldwin said. Cutter had not received any follow-up treatment and no one had called his parents. When he was ready to engage with the system, it wasn't ready for him, and the window of opportunity closed, she said.

"Santa Clara Health Department, even though they say they will see him quickly because he's a 'high need patient,' still has not reached out. It seems he has to be homeless to receive mental health services, but if he does not receive help, he will be homeless," she wrote at the time in her journal.

"The county had expected him to manage as a normal functioning person, which is ironic because the services are supposed to be for severely mentally ill people, who generally cannot manage their lives," Baldwin said.

Time and again, there seemed to be little continuity to the services her son was supposed to receive, she said. Despite his most recent hospitalization in May, in the weeks before he died, his social worker came just once and decided not to come again because he had not answered the phone, Baldwin said.

"So for a week-and-a-half no one checked on my son, even though they had told me, 'We aren't going to let him fall through the cracks anymore,'" she said.

'So for a week-and-a-half no one checked on my son, even though they had told me, 'We aren't going to let him fall through the cracks anymore.'

-Deborah Baldwin, mother of Jeff Cutter, who died of a drug overdose

Cutter was admitted to the hospital on psychiatric holds multiple times, but too often he was swiftly let go. In May, his last referral for a 5150 hold, he was released after eight days, as he was coherent on medication the doctor had prescribed. The doctor wanted him to stay longer, but because he was not "at that moment" in psychosis, the hospital couldn't continue to hold him, Baldwin said.

No one took into account that he was severely paranoid, his mother said, and he had a history of stopping his medications within a few weeks. Baldwin had pleaded with the doctor to hold him at least over the weekend, fearing for his life.

"I had kept on asking to have Jeff declared mentally incompetent, but as I was made aware, using drugs was not considered a factor or reason. And because he used drugs, there was the stigma that that was the reason he wasn't competent, not his mental illness," she said.

A program that might have saved Cutter's life

Deborah Baldwin holds an old photograph of her three sons, Michael, 15, far right, Jeff Cutter, 18, in red, and Alex, 8, outside her home in Palo Alto on July 1, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Sadly, Cutter didn't survive long enough for a new law to take effect that might have made it easier to compel his care. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on May 25 to opt in to a state law that involves mandatory treatment for those suffering from severe mental illness and to create an "assisted outpatient treatment program."

Called Laura's Law, proponents say the law helps keep people out of the criminal justice system and psychiatric hospitals. The law allows a judge to issue a court order to compel people with severe mental illness to seek outpatient mental health treatment. Laura's Law also gives families more leverage to ask the court to compel the treatment.

The law is restricted to those who are a serious risk to themselves or others and who have a history of rejecting voluntary treatment. Candidates for the mandatory order must have had a serious mental illness that caused them to be hospitalized or incarcerated two times in 36 consecutive months or caused violent behavior or attempts by the patient to harm themselves or others.

With eight hospitalizations in a year and a history of stopping his medications, Jeff Cutter would have been a likely candidate.

Baldwin's experience with the fragmented mental health system is supported by the stories of other families with severely mentally ill loved ones.

In March, former Mountain View resident Jeffrey Middlebrook told the Mountain View Voice that his son, a veteran suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder, also struggled with drug addiction and couldn't stay on treatment regimens. He said the court system failed his son; his son's loose and voluntary mental health treatment plan was doomed to fail. After multiple mental episodes and arrests, his son is now in prison. Middlebrook supported the adoption of Laura's Law.

More oversight at the OC, but still limited resources

Lawrence Markosian hold an old photo of his stepson Jeff Cutter when he was 11 at the Palo Alto Airport, outside his home in Palo Alto on July 1, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Palo Alto police said they conducted a thorough investigation into Cutter's death, including who might have sold him the drugs. While they thought they had a suspect, they were unable to charge her with anything other than possession of drug paraphernalia. The department is beefing up patrols at the Opportunity Center, acting Lt. Brian Philip said.

Chicoine, of Abode Services, said that if someone is involved in drug dealing at the center, that's a lease violation and there are procedures to get people out. But catching them is tricky, and the housing center does have security measures.

"There is 24-hour desk check-in of anyone going in, and guests must sign in and show identification. During off hours, they have additional security and cameras in various places to monitor suspicious activity," he said.

Deaths do happen at the Opportunity Center. People who are so vulnerable and are served there often have physical conditions, disabilities and layers of mental illness and concurrent drug addiction.

Chicoine said he concurs with Baldwin regarding service failures. There's a reactionary system at play when it comes to mental health treatment. Although the California voter-approved 2004 Mental Health Services Act, which added dedicated funding for programs, has helped, there need to be more clinical services and funding, including for services at the Opportunity Center, he said.

Earlier intervention could help to reduce some of the escalating issues people experience, he said.

"Mental illness is often a disease that comes in young adulthood and there are not enough available services. People get off to a bad start," he said.

Baldwin said she has had to learn many things about the mental health system, albeit now it's too late for her son. Most addiction help revolves around the 10-step Narcotics Anonymous programs instead of around medication nor harm-reduction strategies, even though they have a higher efficacy rate, she said.

"Plus, the programs are not set up to help the dual-diagnosis patient," instead having patients address only one problem at a time, she said.

'Mental illness is often a disease that comes in young adulthood and there are not enough available services. People get off to a bad start.'

-Louis Chicoine, CEO, Adobe Services

"Santa Clara behavioral health ... said, 'Well, he should do that program and then get mental health treatment,'" Baldwin recalled. "Really? Expect a person hallucinating to talk to others?

"I had kept on believing in a system that I have come to see is broken," she said.

Baldwin also learned the drug epidemic affects all classes of people, from rich and powerful to the homeless, yet "'stigma" or shame stops so many from asking for help or because people characterize them as "morally weak."

"I have come to realize that no particular person is 'to blame.' Indeed, many really are attempting to help. It's only when society has come to the point of saying 'enough' will we find the money, effort and drive to truly help these people," she said.

Chicoine agreed with Baldwin that stigma around mental health issues has been the biggest hindrance to getting people the care they need and the funding for services.

"It's about resources. Why aren't we valuing this (disease)? It's still viewed as a moral failure," he said.

Help is available

Any person who is feeling troubled can call 800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can call 855-278-4204. Spanish speakers can call 888-628-9454.

Anyone who is struggling with substance use can call the Santa Clara County Department of Behavioral Health Services at 800-488-9919.

For a list of local substance use treatment services, visit bhsd.sccgov.org.

People can reach trained counselors at Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Read more: How to help those in crisis

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A death at the Opportunity Center raises questions about security and care

A mother grieves her mentally ill son, who died after drugs were supplied by a dealer at the facility

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 6:56 am

Jeffrey Cutter's life came to an end in the place where he seemed to finally be protected. Cutter, 37, of Palo Alto, was found dead by his parents in his apartment at Palo Alto's Opportunity Center on June 12.

His death has raised questions for his mother, who feels that her mentally ill son didn't receive the kind of care that could've prevented the tragedy.

Deborah Baldwin spoke recently about her grief and of the inadequately funded and monitored "safety net" system that she believes failed her son.

"We planned to bring him home for dinner," Baldwin said, recalling the day they showed up at his door. "We tried and tried, but we couldn't reach him, or his phone was dead."

On the way up the elevator, at about 5:30 p.m. she didn't have a good feeling.

"I turned to my husband and said, 'We have to understand that one of these times when we go to see him, he'll be dead.'"

When they opened his door, Cutter was lying face down on the floor. Palo Alto police later told her they found a packet that seemed to contain fentanyl, some methamphetamine and syringes.

In the weeks before his death, her son, who had gotten clean of his addiction, had told his mother about a persistent drug dealer, a woman, whom he tried to rebuff.

"I keep on telling her to go away," he'd told Baldwin.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner said Cutter died from mixed-drug toxicity: a combination of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid; 4-ANPP, a precursor to fentanyl; and methamphetamine, a powerful stimulant. His death was ruled an accident.

Palo Alto police told Baldwin they had been trying to bust the dealers at the Opportunity Center for more than two years.

There were "people of interest," but they remained elusive, police had said.

Baldwin believes the Opportunity Center should do a better job of keeping the environment safe for marginalized people such as her son and keeping drug dealers out of the housing.

"The management should bring each person in and talk to them. Why has the Opportunity Center allowed this to happen and to continue? Maybe it's one of those things that there's no answer to," she said. "The OC has good people that try to help, but there's not enough manpower and programs that could possibly help."

Louis Chicoine, CEO of Abode Services, which operates the housing at the Opportunity Center, said everyone was hurting after Cutter's death.

But catching drug transactions is often difficult because they aren't done in the open and can take place behind the closed doors in people's apartments, he said.

"We take the security and welfare of our residents and staff seriously," Chicoine said.

Cutter's death, after years of mental illness and more recent drug use — he started self-medicating with methamphetamine a year before his death — was the saddest chapter in his and his parents' long struggle to help him regain his stability.

Afflicted with bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, he had once been a promising student who won a Governor's Scholarship Program award for high academic achievement to attend college after Palo Alto High School, his mother said.

Cutter, an intelligent and passionate person, was 20 years old when his psychiatric problems emerged. Nonetheless, he completed his undergraduate degree in management information systems at California State University, Chico. After that, his condition deteriorated and his delusions increased, Baldwin said.

He bounced in and out of the hospital and often slept outside prior to being housed at the Opportunity Center. Trying to get into county mental health rehabilitation programs proved a difficult and protracted process. So-called "wrap-around" services touted by county programs didn't work for someone as severely ill as Cutter. The programs expected him to answer the phone, schedule and remember appointments and be ready when social workers and other help providers came, Baldwin said.

One example: Cutter was discharged from Stanford Hospital on Sept. 28, 2020. He was given "urgent" referrals to psychiatry and cardiology — the latter due to heart damage from methamphetamine use. More than a week later, Stanford had not sent the paperwork over to the county and then county Behavioral Health didn't send the referral to the addiction center, Baldwin said. Cutter had not received any follow-up treatment and no one had called his parents. When he was ready to engage with the system, it wasn't ready for him, and the window of opportunity closed, she said.

"Santa Clara Health Department, even though they say they will see him quickly because he's a 'high need patient,' still has not reached out. It seems he has to be homeless to receive mental health services, but if he does not receive help, he will be homeless," she wrote at the time in her journal.

"The county had expected him to manage as a normal functioning person, which is ironic because the services are supposed to be for severely mentally ill people, who generally cannot manage their lives," Baldwin said.

Time and again, there seemed to be little continuity to the services her son was supposed to receive, she said. Despite his most recent hospitalization in May, in the weeks before he died, his social worker came just once and decided not to come again because he had not answered the phone, Baldwin said.

"So for a week-and-a-half no one checked on my son, even though they had told me, 'We aren't going to let him fall through the cracks anymore,'" she said.

Cutter was admitted to the hospital on psychiatric holds multiple times, but too often he was swiftly let go. In May, his last referral for a 5150 hold, he was released after eight days, as he was coherent on medication the doctor had prescribed. The doctor wanted him to stay longer, but because he was not "at that moment" in psychosis, the hospital couldn't continue to hold him, Baldwin said.

No one took into account that he was severely paranoid, his mother said, and he had a history of stopping his medications within a few weeks. Baldwin had pleaded with the doctor to hold him at least over the weekend, fearing for his life.

"I had kept on asking to have Jeff declared mentally incompetent, but as I was made aware, using drugs was not considered a factor or reason. And because he used drugs, there was the stigma that that was the reason he wasn't competent, not his mental illness," she said.

Sadly, Cutter didn't survive long enough for a new law to take effect that might have made it easier to compel his care. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on May 25 to opt in to a state law that involves mandatory treatment for those suffering from severe mental illness and to create an "assisted outpatient treatment program."

Called Laura's Law, proponents say the law helps keep people out of the criminal justice system and psychiatric hospitals. The law allows a judge to issue a court order to compel people with severe mental illness to seek outpatient mental health treatment. Laura's Law also gives families more leverage to ask the court to compel the treatment.

The law is restricted to those who are a serious risk to themselves or others and who have a history of rejecting voluntary treatment. Candidates for the mandatory order must have had a serious mental illness that caused them to be hospitalized or incarcerated two times in 36 consecutive months or caused violent behavior or attempts by the patient to harm themselves or others.

With eight hospitalizations in a year and a history of stopping his medications, Jeff Cutter would have been a likely candidate.

Baldwin's experience with the fragmented mental health system is supported by the stories of other families with severely mentally ill loved ones.

In March, former Mountain View resident Jeffrey Middlebrook told the Mountain View Voice that his son, a veteran suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder, also struggled with drug addiction and couldn't stay on treatment regimens. He said the court system failed his son; his son's loose and voluntary mental health treatment plan was doomed to fail. After multiple mental episodes and arrests, his son is now in prison. Middlebrook supported the adoption of Laura's Law.

Palo Alto police said they conducted a thorough investigation into Cutter's death, including who might have sold him the drugs. While they thought they had a suspect, they were unable to charge her with anything other than possession of drug paraphernalia. The department is beefing up patrols at the Opportunity Center, acting Lt. Brian Philip said.

Chicoine, of Abode Services, said that if someone is involved in drug dealing at the center, that's a lease violation and there are procedures to get people out. But catching them is tricky, and the housing center does have security measures.

"There is 24-hour desk check-in of anyone going in, and guests must sign in and show identification. During off hours, they have additional security and cameras in various places to monitor suspicious activity," he said.

Deaths do happen at the Opportunity Center. People who are so vulnerable and are served there often have physical conditions, disabilities and layers of mental illness and concurrent drug addiction.

Chicoine said he concurs with Baldwin regarding service failures. There's a reactionary system at play when it comes to mental health treatment. Although the California voter-approved 2004 Mental Health Services Act, which added dedicated funding for programs, has helped, there need to be more clinical services and funding, including for services at the Opportunity Center, he said.

Earlier intervention could help to reduce some of the escalating issues people experience, he said.

"Mental illness is often a disease that comes in young adulthood and there are not enough available services. People get off to a bad start," he said.

Baldwin said she has had to learn many things about the mental health system, albeit now it's too late for her son. Most addiction help revolves around the 10-step Narcotics Anonymous programs instead of around medication nor harm-reduction strategies, even though they have a higher efficacy rate, she said.

"Plus, the programs are not set up to help the dual-diagnosis patient," instead having patients address only one problem at a time, she said.

"Santa Clara behavioral health ... said, 'Well, he should do that program and then get mental health treatment,'" Baldwin recalled. "Really? Expect a person hallucinating to talk to others?

"I had kept on believing in a system that I have come to see is broken," she said.

Baldwin also learned the drug epidemic affects all classes of people, from rich and powerful to the homeless, yet "'stigma" or shame stops so many from asking for help or because people characterize them as "morally weak."

"I have come to realize that no particular person is 'to blame.' Indeed, many really are attempting to help. It's only when society has come to the point of saying 'enough' will we find the money, effort and drive to truly help these people," she said.

Chicoine agreed with Baldwin that stigma around mental health issues has been the biggest hindrance to getting people the care they need and the funding for services.

"It's about resources. Why aren't we valuing this (disease)? It's still viewed as a moral failure," he said.

Help is available

Any person who is feeling troubled can call 800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can call 855-278-4204. Spanish speakers can call 888-628-9454.

Anyone who is struggling with substance use can call the Santa Clara County Department of Behavioral Health Services at 800-488-9919.

For a list of local substance use treatment services, visit bhsd.sccgov.org.

People can reach trained counselors at Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Read more: How to help those in crisis

Comments

Concerned
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2021 at 9:39 am
Concerned, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 9:39 am

First, I want to express my deep condolences to Deb's family for the excruciating pain over the loss of their son and thank them for their bravery in sharing their story. You so eloquently identified the appalling lack of support for those struggling with mental illness.
Many other families have stories that mirror hers, with repeated instances of mentally-ill individuals left to manage their own care. Deb clearly delineates the absurdity, and the tragedy, and the negligence, of expecting someone who is not medically capable of self-care, being discharged to manage on their own without adequate supports. And then to compound the problem, the few outpatient supports they do receive are terminated because they don't return phone calls or take medication. Do you penalize a cancer patient and abruptly terminate a cancer patient's care, or an alzheimer patient's care because they are too sick to take their own medication or too sick to return a phone call? NO! In fact, they receive EXTRA services to move them to a point where they are as stable and as healthy as possible.
And adequate supports DO make all the difference. The adequate supports WOULD move many of these individuals to a point of stability. Maybe not "cure" them, but at least keep them stable.
The problem is so deep. Laws impede getting mentally ill the care they need. Insurance companies are not set up or funded for mentally ill patients, because it is expensive, lifelong, and challenging.
Vulnerable mentally ill are not protected from those who prey upon them. The police don't have enough personnel period or personnel who receive training.
Everyone has advocates these days. Who advocates for the mentally ill? They are too ill to be their own advocates and so they can't attain the legislative traction, or generate the angry public sentiment that demands action and change from their lawmakers.
How can we all work together to pressure lawmakers to push forward legislation?


Mrs Norman Conradson
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:03 pm
Mrs Norman Conradson, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:03 pm

As a retired social worker it breaks my heart to hear of yet another case where a mentally ill person who has been self medicating has accidentally died as a result of this and a system that has so many holes in it. My condolences to his family and all those who knew and cared about this young man. Glad that some newer laws are starting to plug up some of the holes and that a good place like the Opportunity Center exists to provide shelter. Tell us what more is needed so concerned people can help make things better for those who are still so vulnerable.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:46 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:46 pm

"One example: Cutter was discharged from Stanford Hospital on Sept. 28, 2020. He was given "urgent" referrals to psychiatry and cardiology — the latter due to heart damage from methamphetamine use. More than a week later, Stanford had not sent the paperwork over to the county and then county Behavioral Health didn't send the referral to the addiction center, Baldwin said. Cutter had not received any follow-up treatment and no one had called his parents."

Not to diminish the tragedy here, but it reminds me of when Stanford kept losing the paperwork for a friend's rapidly failing husband and where / when and if they'd discharged him back to an assisted care home after providing him with emergency care for his various trips and falls.

They "lost" him at least 4 times 10 years ago. Not confidence-inspiring.


GF
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:14 pm
GF, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:14 pm

Jeffrey was in my class in high school; it broke my heart to read this story. I remember him as a kind, sweet person and I'm so sorry this happened to him and is happening to so many others. My condolences to his parents, and thank you for telling his story; I really hope that this will bring attention to all the ways the system is failing us all.


Paly02
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:43 pm
Paly02, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:43 pm

I had 7th grade English with Jeff and am sad to hear of his passing and the struggles he went through. I thank the family for being open and vulnerable and allowing us to see all the spots where he was failed by our health care system.

Relatedly, now that Newsom has signed the CRISES Act into law, we should check whether any of that grant money could go toward mental health programs in Palo Alto or at the county level. It's only one part of the web of services we need to improve but every bit helps.


JB
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Oct 15, 2021 at 7:12 pm
JB, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Deborah and Lawrence, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. You've dealt with so much, and this is such a sad story. I hope that this article leads to more changes in the health system for the mentally ill/ addicted population. Take care.


Lynne Henderson
Registered user
Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2021 at 3:47 pm
Lynne Henderson, Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2021 at 3:47 pm

My sincere and deepest sympathy to Jeff Cutters parents and to those who knew him.
I deeply appreciate Ms. Baldwin's courage and openness in telling about her struggles to save her son in a system that is fragmented at best and fails the seriously ill/"dual diagnosis" person repeatedly. Santa Clara County Behavioral Health's "requirement" that Mr. Cutter attend Narcotics Anonymous first shows an ignorance that still plagues "the system," and Ms. Baldwin's observation that someone who is hallucinating is not able to participate in such meetings is accurate. (The only factual error I could find in the article was the statement "Narcotics Anonymous is a 10-step program"--unless NA has suddenly changed, it's a 12-step program).
As for "involuntary hospitalization"--no matter how hard the Stanford doctor tried and how much Jeff wanted to stay in the hospital, LPS--CA Civil Commitment law-- and insurance companies make it virtually impossible once a person "clears" on medication to keep them in the hospital.
Having fought as hard as I knew how--and at times ineptly--to save someone I dearly loved , also an outstanding Paly grad from many years ago--I simply haven't been able to "tell the story." because the pain of fighting to save him and his death remain for me.
I welcome this article and am open to any suggestions as to how I can assist in the future.
Bless you, Ms. Baldwin, Mr. Markosian, and Sue Dremann for telling the truth.


Neighborhood moms
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2021 at 1:38 pm
Neighborhood moms, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Thank you for the wonderful writing from Sue Dremmand and also the many heart-felt comments I've received in the past week. All of this has been a journey for me that at times has felt insurmountable. I've learned a few things though in the course of this 18 year" journey".
The first is that the "Zero drug policy" the US has has hurt and killed much more people that it has helped. It has served to destroyed families, and led to addicts not receiving help because of stigma and shame. Portugal now has lifted that policy and is now treating addicts as humanly as possible. This has led to 50% less overdose deaths. I believe my son and others deserve to be treated that way as well.
Secondly, Medicare, like many health care plans don't cover services for certain health care professionals; such as family therapists, peer support counselors and mental health counselors. Theres currently to bills up for a vote: The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R.2767) and Promoting Effective and Empowering Recovery Services (S. 2144/H.R.2767)
A simple step we all can do is to write our elected officials to request they support these bills. There are simply so few mental health professionals available that take medicare right now.
I can't save my son any longer. No amount of love nor family was enough for him not to use a supremely addictive substance. Changing the system takes a huge amount of time and effort, but perhaps by doing small, concrete steps we can work towards a better future. Plus, save a person from this dreaded disease.
Deborah


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