From Rights to Reality: Mary Thunker (Contributing Author)
BY MARY THUNKER
Two years ago, several dozen parents made news in Nebraska because they abandoned teenagers at hospitals, saying they could not handle their kids at home or access appropriate care. Parents took this drastic step after Nebraska passed a “Safe Haven” law allowing parents to relinquish their children at hospitals for any reason. Legislators were expecting infants, not older children.
My heart ached for the families of these troubled children. Why should they have to give up their child just to receive mental health care? My daughter and I contacted our state senator to discuss our own experiences accessing mental health services for my grandson. Soon after, a state senator gathered families to share their stories. Many of the families pulled together the Family Advocacy Movement to give parents in Nebraska a voice.
Then my daughter and I found ourselves stuck in the same situation as so many other families. My grandson was hospitalized repeatedly because of aggressive behavior. The doctors recommended residential treatment but his health insurance refused to pay. One doctor said there was no choice but to abandon my grandson so he could get treatment through foster care. After the hospital meeting, I called a fellow member of the Family Advocacy Movement for support. Soon we had email messages and phone calls coming in from other families. They gave us the strength to fight. My daughter spoke with the Speaker of the Nebraska House of Representatives. A month later, my grandson was approved for residential care without foster care placement.
Despite the sadness we feel being separated from my grandson, we also have a great feeling of relief because he is getting the help he needs. My daughter and I have also started a new group, called A.S.K. (Alphabet Soup Kids) for families of children with mental and behavioral illness, and my daughter was hired as the one of the first Family Navigators for Nebraska. She now spends her time helping other families find services so they don’t have face the same choices.
If you have any questions regarding support for your family, or to find out more information on how you can support this much needed group, always fell free to contact us.