A death at the Opportunity Center raises questions about security and care | October 15, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 15, 2021

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 Sue Dremann

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.

This story contains 1914 words.

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Email Staff Writer Sue Dremann at [email protected]

Comments

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2021 at 9:39 am

Concerned is a registered user.

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?


Posted by Mrs Norman Conradson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:03 pm

Mrs Norman Conradson is a registered user.

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.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:46 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"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.


Posted by GF
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:14 pm

GF is a registered user.

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.


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:43 pm

Paly02 is a registered user.

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.


Posted by JB
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 15, 2021 at 7:12 pm

JB is a registered user.

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.


Posted by Lynne Henderson
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2021 at 3:47 pm

Lynne Henderson is a registered user.

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.


Posted by Neighborhood moms
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 19, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Neighborhood moms is a registered user.

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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