Families of people with mental illnesses say legislative changes are needed

    Legislation pending in Harrisburg could make it easier to order people to get treatment for mental illness.

    Legislation pending in Harrisburg could make it easier to order people to get treatment for mental illness. Pennsylvania law makers heard testimony on the proposal in May – but no votes have been cast. Some families are getting desperate to get the bill moving.

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    For Julie Pinto and her husband, the nightmare started on Father’s Day weekend. Her 25-year-old son, a college student, came to visit, and was clearly delusional. He said he was a psychic, and could read other people’s thoughts. Pinto says he also was behaving erratically:

    Pinto: He would not take a shower, because he thinks there are chemicals in the water, which is going to kill him, and also, he wrote this essay, 14 pages, writing about government how they were after him, and trying to kill him

    The Pintos eventually had him committed to a hospital – but after three days, he was out, and getting worse. After two failed family interventions, they went through the same process, this time, a judge ordered him to get outpatient treatment once released from the hospital – but Pinto said nothing happened:

    Pinto: Nobody followed up on it, he never took any medication, neither did he go to any doctor to be seen.

    The legislation pending in Harrisburg would make it easier for families to get loved ones into treatment, and also assure follow-up by adding oversight, says Jeanette Castello. She is an advocate and mother who has been in the same position as the Pintos.

    Castello:
    What we are really talking about are the individuals who lack insight, who have something called anosognosia, which means they have total unawareness of their need to be in treatment, and this would assign a treatment provider much more quickly, and assure that the individual remains in treatment.

    Castello is hoping the bill will get a vote next month.

    Julie Pinto says she has been spending her days on the phone trying to get help for her son. While many organizations are willing to help – none can force him into treatment.

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