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  • Catherine J Rippee-Hanson

"Out of Whack!"


by Catherine J Rippee-Hanson


If only the “powers that be” could provide a small percentage of the care and concern that your private support network does. We are so radically out of whack as a society. ~ Gail


I could have easily replied to this comment from Gail on the thread in our private Facebook group, "Mark of Vacaville," but I already had in mind to make a point that I want everyone to understand. Most of you might already know that the definition of "Gravely Disabled" in California which is used for LPS Conservatorship is this:


[The Court will not let you establish an LPS conservatorship unless it finds beyond a reasonable doubt, that the mentally ill person, is gravely disabled. Gravely disabled means that, because of a mental disorder, the person cannot take care of his/her basic, personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter.]


Now, back to what Gail said...


If my sister and I were physically able - we would just be going out on a daily basis and caring for our brother, Mark, and bringing him anything that he needed - as we did for years and years.


Because we are not able to care for him in that manner anymore due to our own physical limitations, and because he became homeless 13 years ago, we started utilizing social media to try to track and be able to know when he might need help.

For two years, we struggled to garner enough community awareness and support to help us in our efforts as we fought the "powers that be" in this county, state, and nation.


It was a circuitous strategy that led to a few local social media groups to ban us - or our posts, and we regularly endured scorn and judgment from individuals who were incapable of understanding why we were intruding and posting about this P.O.S. man that was our brother, and an example of the kind of homeless person they could care less about.


However, many did understand. Many did not blame us. Many did not judge our family or Mark, and that is what kept us going through all the horrible things that some people said to us. But, we were still struggling as to how to keep helping Mark with his daily needs, when he didn't even know that he had those needs.


That brings us to a little more than one year ago... when our brother, Mark was hit by the first vehicle and ended up needing brain surgery. As I was frantically trying to update 600 people on a thread on a local Facebook group - the administrator of that group deleted my entire post.


She then banned me.


Why? Because I made a comment about Mark's account of what the police did when they came to the scene of the accident and how he was left lying on the sidewalk crying with a serious injury that turned into a brain abscess that required emergency surgery. I was harassed through "Messenger" from the administration for "bad-mouthing" the police.


I need to say at this point that I am not anti-police. My only son is a police officer in Oakland, California - and I had probably posted more positive posts about the police including my son, (who is a true hero) than anyone else in that group.


Stuck in harassment from the administrator, and banned, I pleaded with a member that I knew from his efforts to help Mark - to post an explanation for why my post disappeared and 600 people were left not knowing what had happened.


With that came the creation of our private group, from a person that I didn't even know. She posted on my wall that she had created the private group for us and I stepped into the role of Administrator and began to learn and formulate how this platform could be best utilized.


What has resulted is indeed unique from the purpose of other groups, as I strive to educate, inform, and garner support from our community, and offer support to other families while networking with mental health/illness advocates much easier than before. And we are eternally grateful for all of our members and their compassion and eagerness to help when asked or even if we don't ask.


By now, you are probably wondering what my point was about the definition of "Gravely Disabled."


Here is the "Irony" of all the good that we do together for Mark -

Because we collect clothing, take him food, and sometimes convince him to accept shelter in bad weather or when he needs to clean up - he is not considered legally "Gravely Disabled!"


We all provide what he needs whenever we can... not always... not every day... not always enough. But, because we try - it dooms him further.


When my sister, Linda, left my home a little bit ago to go to Mark with items that we both had gathered for him, her parting words to me as we quickly assessed all that we had done in the last 36 hours for Mark since he was discharged after recovering from physical injuries for 258 days after being hit by the second car in the last year...


...and left on the streets of Vacaville once more - were,


"Until someone in power changes the laws, all we can do is try to keep him alive."

..and I agreed with sadness and anger.

This is how our brother, Mark was discharged back to the streets after 258 days of hospitalization recovering from being hit by a car for the second time in a year. He is blind, massively physically disabled, with a past traumatic brain injury, Schizophrenia, and anosognosia (lack of insight into his own brain damage and serious mental illness.) An Adult Protective Services social worker was supposed to "receive" him upon discharge - but never showed. Our family did not know he had been released until after the fact. So now, he is back on the unforgiving streets of Vacaville, CA for the last week and has already walked out into traffic a few times. Will he get hit by a car for a third time before an LPS conservatorship will be initiated by Solano County?


Yes, Gail, our society is certainly "Out of Whack!"



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