Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Many Suffer Due to Mendocino County’s Inequitable Mental Illness Crisis Response


Welcome to our letters to the editor/opinion section. To submit yours for consideration, please send to matthewplafever@gmail.com. Please consider including an image to be used–either a photograph of you or something applicable to the letter. However, an image is not necessary for publication.

Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of MendoFever nor have we checked the letters for accuracy.

A homeless encampment smooshed against the side of a condemned building in Ukiah [Picture by Matt LaFever]

Dear Editor-

I would like to address the issue of disparity in Mendocino County’s response to families experiencing a serious mental illness crisis. 

First by stating that when an individual is experiencing such an episode, it is not an individual experience, first and foremost it is a family one! Secondly, a community crisis that requires appropriate & quick action! Thirdly, education and response should be cohesive and compassionate. 

I have had the unfortunate experience of having to ask for help and intervention on many occasions through Redwood Community Service’s crisis line and the Ukiah Police. At that time, there was not a working understanding of who was responsible for field crisis calls. RCS refused, UPD claimed they are not mental health workers, and we did not have a mobile crisis unit. 

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You soon learn that nobody wants to take on the responsibility of mitigating a mental illness crisis. That does not fly with SMI! Serious Mental Illness is a very cruel disease that is downplayed & seen as an individual’s responsibility. Every day families are discriminated against as they try to navigate the system and get help as their loved one deteriorates into their illness! It is simply unacceptable. 

As I witness the response by MCSO & Search and Rescue to locate and aid Riley Hsieh as he had walked away from home while having a Serious Mental Illness Crisis, I am terribly sad and disturbed. So sad for Riley and his family because I understand this on a deeply personal level, it is painful and scary. I pray he is found safe and given the appropriate care and help. 

That is where the disparity comes in, unfair treatment in a time of a Serious Illness Crisis. The response and aid to Mr. Hsieh are not the norm in a Mental Illness Crisis in Mendocino County. The answer I received to aid my son during many crises was none, until he committed a crime.  

If I were standing on the corner having a heart attack people would rush to my aid ASAP and call 911 for a medical intervention no questions asked! If it is a person experiencing severe psychosis and paranoia which is a medical crisis we ignore it as if it is not our problem. The call for aid does not come if you are the mother. Discrimination? The very ill street people we allow to remain sick without intervention and treatment is a disgusting lack of care for our community as a whole. Laws aside intervention is necessary. Change is inevitable and unification of protocol is what we must strive for! 

It’s really shameful to see how quickly help arrives, no questions are asked if you have some sort of clout. But for families like mine, we mostly get discarded like trash, like we’re the problem. Being poor is the problem. We somehow don’t deserve an equitable response. 

Let’s delve into a compassionate unified educated response. Our community would thrive in so many meaningful ways if we cared enough to appropriately address the needs of those battling Serious Mental Illness. 


Mazie Malone   

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  1. I completely agree with you. Mendocino county mental health has not been anywhere close to what we need since they closed the public health facility in Ukiah back in 1998. We need an inpatient lockdown psychiatric crisis facility with mobile crisis workers that work in conjunction with the police department but have somewhere to take people instead of having to ship them out of county. We are horribly failing everyone with a mental health problem in this county and have been for a long time now. Thank you for bringing light to the subject and I hope more people feel the same way and something has to be done soon.

  2. Thank you for your courageous letter. It is very timely, as now we need mental health services even more than before. People are dealing with long covid, no small matter, as well as addictive substances that are flooding into Mendocino County (meth, opiodes, fentanyl). I have read the online reviews of the mental health services we do have that are available to the public, and they are not good. Private therapists and psychologists/psychiatrists are expensive, therefore out of reach for most on a long-term basis. If you look at the tragedies that are unfolding out in Covelo you get an idea of the severity of our problems in this county. Ukiah has its problems too, as we have seen such tragic events erupting involving police vs. the public. This is not normal, folks, and we need to do something about it.

  3. Well spoken, I live in Sacramento and also had a son in a similar situation and your completely correct there is no help for them or the family I was told the same thing unless he committed a crime there’s nothing they can do, it’s sad that we have come so accustomed to people in need living on the streets sleeping on the sidewalk we just walk right by and do nothing, what have we become? Heartless and cold. Shameful it’s so sad.

      • He passed away last August, the streets took him. As a mother it’s a pain that will never go away an anger that eats at you every day and everytime you see a young man hungry dirty and crazed from being on the streets it breaks your heart all over again because you know there’s little help or understanding out there, I always say I wish I was a millionaire so I can help these people, truth is it’s going to take more than money it’s going to take heart and patience and understanding try walking in their shoes,then we might be able to make a difference.

        • I am so sorry, (((hugs)))…, the pain is unimaginable and preventable! Unfortunately it seems mothers are the only ones able to walk in the shoes of all those suffering these tragedies!! 💕

        • Unfortunately as difficult as it is to say my son too died on the streets. The disgraced Countys mental health doctor Goodman convinced him to stop taking his once monthly injection. The next 5 months were hell to try to manage him. Eventually he took his own life. RQMC is not qualified to “run the show”. Twas a failure by the county, ( I worked my whole career for), to give to this private, for profit business the care of our loved ones. Who can check on the occupancy turn around and illegal evictions of their 9 bed, unsupervised redwood valley house, and the apt. complex on Gobbi? Failures.

          • God I am so sorry and not surprised… friend me … change will
            Only happen if we speak about it!! I am one person with a strong voice good use of words and a whole lot of concern and balls !!! Lol 😂💕

  4. Thank you ladies❤!! This letter, & all comments are, I think, from & by a woman. Your inherent compassion & care for family, friends, loved ones & community are desperately needed & appreciated in the world!! And are traits we men need to adopt more commonly. Keep up the good fight!!

  5. I can’t imagine the pain some people have to endure because of the shortcomings in our town, county, and our culture in general. Mazie is right, mothers may have a better take on the compassion we should all feel for people who have become victims of our society’s negligence/ignorance/greed. As a mother myself I know how much we invest in our kids and try to put myself in the situation in my mind, probably to appeal to some higher being to save us all. Whatever that higher order is, it involves compassion. Lacking that we are nothing. Maybe if we all, men and women alike, keep that in mind, we will find a solution. Best wishes to all commenting here, be well, we need your voices!

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
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