She was an A student, by all accounts a normal child. But at age seven, she was sexually molested by her father. That trauma left her scared of strangers, prone to violent outbursts, and suicidal. As she grew older, her violence at home worsened; at 14, she hit her mom and broke the car window. The latest outburst led to another stay in Juvenile, her 15th or 20th visit. For Linda, that means that she will end up in a cell at Juvenile while her mental health continues to deteriorate. Probation officer Adam Rodriguez describes Linda’s dilemma: “San Antonio State Hospital, all these other hospitals that have psychiatric wards, won’t take her because she’s not extreme enough. When she comes into the detention facility there are times when she’s screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs. Several guards have to restrain her and carry her into the back. By the time they call the mental health professional to get there she’s calm. Because of the law, you have to have proof. You’ve got this young girl, she’s got some obvious mental health issues, she’s got medications that have been prescribed on a diagnosis that was probably not correct because she wouldn’t participate in the psychological evaluation. So from the very beginning you have medication and a diagnosis that’s incorrect. You have her in the juvenile system, you have a PO that’s not really sure if the child has had the right medication and diagnosis. But she’s committing offenses, so judicially we have to handle it. You can’t place her because nobody will take her. And even the state hospital won’t take her because she falls through the cracks. So what happens? She continues on probation and reports once in a while. She’s in and out of the detention facility and her mom throws her hands up and says, ‘They can’t help me: And it’s the truth. The only time they really will offer more intense treatment is if she tries to commit suicide again. Unfortunately, if she commits another serious offense, she’s gonna fall into a judicial sanction instead of a mental health program. She’ll be court-ordered to a placement or to TYC [Texas Youth Commission], sadly enough, as opposed to being placed somewhere where she could get better help. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough of those services here in Laredo and the ones we do have are overwhelmed. So, what else do we do? Does she have mental health issues? Absolutely. Is she a danger to herself and others? Absolutely. Is the judicial system failing her? Absolutely. And do I believe that a substantial number of the kids who come into our facility have mental health issues? Absolutely. We need a program educating parents about mental health issues, we need enough money to offer enough services to kids like Linda. And we need to quickly identify and appropriately help the kids who need these services.” 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 4, 2005
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