My Sister’s Keeper

2014 ANNUAL ASSEMBLY – Crime/Drugs Testimony

Loretta Martin Testimony

Photo Credit: Daily Progress

Loretta Martin, New Beginnings Christian Community

Good evening. My name is Loretta and I would like to take this opportunity to address the assembly about my family’s struggle with finding good drug and alcohol treatment program for women.

My sister is a long term alcohol and drug abuser which has caused a significant effect on her ability to make good choices. She is incapable of accessing resources for herself. My sister has been at the local hospital many times for alcoholism and substance abuse. Many times we have been turned away from the psychiatric floor and told to contact Region Ten during office hours. She is now receiving Social Security but cannot find housing.  I have submitted an application for rapid re-housing which we have not heard anything back yet.

She has been arrested more times that I can count for drunkenness’ in public. It is a non-violent offense, a petty crime, but because there is no safe haven for women she always ends up in jail.  I continue to search for all available community resources to help her find housing but no luck so far.  She was sent to a shelter program in Richmond but that turned out to be a disaster.  My daughter and I ended up driving to Richmond to bring her back to familiar surroundings.  After 2 weeks of being around family and friends the old habits began to re-surface again and she ended up back on the streets.  She is now in Roanoke where she was enrolled in a drug program but according to other family she is no longer in the program.

If there were some programs for women with alcohol/drug problems in the local area, families could stay connected and then maybe the healing would begin.   We have tried all possible avenues to find assistance in the area that would help her with her addictions.  But every time we search for help we are told to go to Roanoke, or another state; somewhere that makes it hard for my family to readily be there for her. I pray that she is O.K. and that God will continue to watch over her. “Am I my sister’s keeper? Yes I am” and I and my family will continue the fight to find the care she needs.

“We Wait”- Mental Health Testimony

The following testimony was delivered at IMPACT’s Rally on April 7th by Judith Looney, Member of First United Methodist Church.

Good evening, my name is Judith Looney and I’m a member of First United Methodist Church. I would like to take a moment and tell you about my daughter and our navigation through the mental health care system in Virginia. My daughter changed during the summer before she started her sophomore year at high school. She became withdrawn, preferring to spend her summer in the basement watching old TV shows. When I tried to ask her what was wrong, she would just cry and become angry with me. She also began self-harming behaviors, some of which I was unaware of at the time. I was frantic, I didn’t know who to turn to, and so I began emailing her school guidance counselor for advice. She directed me to Region Ten counselors within the school but I had to wait until school started in a month.

When school started the Region Ten counselor felt that my daughter needed her own therapist. I had no idea how to find one who was skilled working with adolescents with depression and eating disorders. We learned that we needed a team consisting of a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, a pediatrician and the therapist. This is when I learned the limits of our health coverage. I was distraught because we had to pay out of pocket for the nutritionist and the psychiatrist did not accept insurance due to unfair rules from the insurance companies. In spite of all this support, my daughter could not seem to pull out of her depression, anxiety and eating disorder and continued to lose weight. We decided to get her hospitalized for the eating disorder and the only hospital our insurance uses was Sheppard-Pratt in Baltimore. This was not a good fit for us: It was very far away, and there was no separate facility for youth and adolescents. My daughter went through the program, and for a time was frightened into eating well, another reason I didn’t think it was a good program. In fact, over time she has gone back to her bad eating habits. Fortunately her team has prevented her from totally giving up and she recently has gained some of the weight she lost over time.

In December, my daughter had a breakdown; she could not stop crying, and started scraping her arms raw, so we had to take her to the emergency room for help. We learned that Martha Jefferson no longer has any mental health practitioners on staff and we had to online video chat with a doctor at UVA. He recommended that she be admitted to an emergency facility. Then the scary part began. Once the doctor recommends treatment, parents have no say where she goes; it is whatever bed is available. She was admitted to a facility in Richmond, ran by VCU.

The VCU team told me that my daughter would benefit greatly from an in-patient facility in Hampton Roads, where she would stay for three months and relearn how to live. It sounded wonderful, but our insurance won’t cover it. Programs like these can cost as much as a 4 year degree! The psychologist at VCU then recommended an out-patient facility in Richmond which would provide 24/7 team support, something I haven’t been able to get in Charlottesville, and which our insurance would pay for. Unfortunately, I have been on their waiting list since December, and am waiting along with people from as far away as Washington DC and North Carolina. So, despite the urgency of our situation, we wait.

That is my family’s story. We are not poor, we have health insurance, but we don’t have enough resources to be able to get everything we need to help our daughter get better. We have to work through the system and it is a tangled maze. Over the past 2 years my family has been gone from school counselors, to Region Ten counselors, to Sheppard-Pratt in Baltimore, to VCU… and we still have not gotten the help she needs The care we need just isn’t here. If it is, we have to wait. The more that we can increase care here locally, the better off we will all be.


Youth Mental Health Testimony

IMPACT Annual Assembly- October 28th, 2013

Deb Myers, Peace Lutheran Church

I come before you tonight to speak about the challenges of obtaining adequate and timely mental health care for children and teens in our community.

My best friend had a son who was being bullied at school. She and her husband were diligent in trying to work with teachers and school administrators to address the bullying and help their son find ways to cope. They got him into counseling. Then they got a phone call from their nephew saying that their son had plans to commit suicide.

They sought immediate psychiatric care but learned that there are NO IN-PATIENT pediatric psychiatric treatment options in Charlottesville. NONE. There are limited psychiatric beds for adults at UVa, but not for anyone 18 years or younger. To get immediate in-patient care, they would have to take their son to treatment facilities in Richmond or Roanoke. Those treatment facilities were out of their health insurance provider network so the cost of treatment was astronomical. Then there was the logistical issue of having one child in crisis, in a hospital so far from home and juggling the other realities of life: jobs and care of other children at home. They would be far away from their family support systems.

They were put on a one-two month wait list to see a doctor for out-patient help. They called to speed up the process and their wait was reduced to 2 weeks however the appointment was only for 15 minutes. Drugs were prescribed, without a thorough assessment. It took two weeks for the drugs to take affect and unfortunately, those drugs had devastating effects. Their son fell into an even deeper depression. Meanwhile they were trying to suicide proof their home.  This bright boy who had always got straight A’s was failing every subject at school. He couldn’t concentrate, his self-esteem plummeted and the bullying at school continued. They tried to get special accommodations at school to help their son, accommodations that are guaranteed by law, but are difficult to obtain in reality.

For these reasons, I am advocating that IMPACT vote for mental health. The stress of it all started to affect his parent’s emotional and mental health. They were hitting brick walls with both the medical & school systems. They were desperately trying to research treatment options. There was no support network to help them navigate any of this. They got very little sleep, because one of them had to sleep with their son every night, for fear he would try to kill himself.

Young Adult Job Training Testimony

Hello my name is India Sims. I had a spinal cord injury at 10 months old from a lumbar puncture and have been partially paralyzed since then. I graduated from CATech in 2003 and Virginia School of Massage in 2009 with degrees in cosmetology, make-up artist, esthetician, and massage therapy. While I have been successful during those times, I faced many unfair obstacles. I’m a success but I know too many people that didn’t make it.

During high school, I enrolled in CATech in order to get a cosmetology and barber license. I had to research CATech on my own, no guidance counselor or teacher suggested it. It wasn’t until after I asked; that my counselor helped me

Once enrolled in CATech, the process doesn’t get any easier. High school students have to pay for their materials and people had to quit classes because they couldn’t afford the costs. I was able to pay only because of disability insurance. My supplies cost between $100-$200 per semester. Financial Aid is difficult to obtain. I was told that was because so many people drop out that they are reluctant to give more aid.

Adults wanting to take vocational classes face even more issues. There is no bus route to CATech so people rely on friends, walking, or expensive taxis to travel to and from school. Adults also have to take pre-tests in order to enter CATEC, PVCC, or other votech colleges. If they fail these tests they have to pay to retake the class until they pass it. For some it has been years since they took math or science and these pre-tests and the cost of remedial classes prevent many from entering a training program. Enrollment is difficult. Some classes are only offered at night and many classes fill-up quickly. The schedule for classes is not easy or manageable for many with children. I was fortunate to have my mom take care of my son. But it certainly wasn’t easy on her or me. She was taking care of an infant after a full day of work. For many there are no viable childcare options, most daycare facilities close before classes even start.

Financial Aid for adult votech training is extremely limited and difficult to obtain. I qualified for a loan but the aid office did not help me secure one. Even though I knew the system I couldn’t get a loan. I did everything I could but ultimately it was either keep on arguing and not go to school or finance it on my own. I will be paying back my school debt for at least the next 10 years. They were not upfront about the fees, and I didn’t know how much I owed until after graduation. I have been paying back my loan but they just sent my debt to collections. They are now calling my mom to try and get the money.

It’s not worth it to be in debt for years paying for training that is not valued. I paid more for my classes than my annual income. The biggest problem is that schools are too expensive and too difficult to access.

People should not have to face this many obstacles when they are just trying to better their lives. The difficulties I faced trying to get training were harder than those I face as a disabled woman. That’s just not right. I face enough challenges; it should have been easier to get an education and training. And it wasn’t.