I normally fill my morning drive with the local news, events around are fair city. They are filled with stories about local fires, police reports and happy stories of people having success. I can feel for people who are having it rough and root for stories of kids succeeding at school. This morning, a story on our local news hit me like a ton of bricks.
.This mentally challenged teen was eventually let back inside his home. His family had found a solution. That solution? To handcuff him in a basement, leaving him to become emaciated and sick, finally rescued by outsiders.
One neighbor told The Star that her husband found the teen sleeping in a patch of grass near a tree in front of his home at midnight one night. It was cold, so her husband gave the teen a blanket. The neighbor said when she left for work at 6 a.m., the teen still was outside sleeping.
Another neighbor said she saw the teen pounding on his family’s door one frigid day last year, crying and begging to be let inside.
The neighbor recalled hearing him yell: “I won’t mess up anymore!”
It's easy to vilify the family. And there are a lot of things about this story that make you feel as though a raw anger rises up in you.
The officers switched on the lights and saw the frail teenager wearing dirty clothes and curled around the pole. The teen lifted himself to his knees. Officers noted that he was “very thin,” with sunken cheeks and a look of desperation in his eyes.Don't get me wrong. The parents who left this poor child stay outside without shelter, who handcuffed him to a bed, who fed him only ramen and water deserve all the anger that comes their way. They are an easy target. What they have done is brutal, unthinkable.
The officers consoled the teen and removed the cuffs.
The shivering teen rubbed his wrists, told officers his name and asked for his jacket and shoes. He had just a few thin blankets to lie on and use for covers, according to the police reports.
He said he had been locked in the basement since Sept. 27, when his father removed him from his high school, where he was a sophomore, reportedly to home-school him. At first, the teen could roam freely in the basement, he told police. But because he was hungry, he found a way out to get food, angering his father.“let him upstairs” in December and he ate nearly an entire bowl of fruit in one sitting.
Sadly, it's also the way our society views mental health care.
I wish I could say all of us hand out bread, that we work to help those who need it. But we don't. The family in this case argues that they were first in trouble because of the violent tendencies of their child. They contend that he beat up the step mother, and that he would be out of control with destruction.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
In radio talks, other neighbors say that they knew the child was "troubled", but it wasn't their issue.
He always seemed hungry, neighbors said. A young neighbor once shared his sandwich with him. Other neighbors saw the teen digging through a trash bin for food.We stay out of other people's problems. It's other people's trouble. We don't need to get involved with that. Maybe hand him food now and again, I suppose.. but it's not our problem. NIMBY, even when it is.. our back yard.
This event happened in Missouri. A state where the governor, Jay Nixon (D), has proposed that now is the time to get more serious about mental health.
“We must do everything in our power to get folks the treatment they need, before it's too late,” Nixon said during his State of the State speech Jan. 28.On the other end of the state line, here in Kansas, Brownback has continued the other way:
JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - Some Johnson County mental health and public safety officials are concerned about possible cuts to the Kansas Mental Health Department.Read more: http://www.kshb.com/...
Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing closing a 36-bed mental health facility in Osawatomie and reducing a planned expansion of a Kansas City facility from 50 beds to 36 beds.
A House committee is endorsing the governor’s plan. But Michael Brouwer, a mental health liaison with the Adult Detention Center in Johnson County, said that budget cuts at the state level will only trickle down and hit taxpayers on the county level.
“The local public safety is picking up those costs and the local mental health facilities are picking up those costs with less funding from the state,” said Brouwer.
Tom Erickson, public information officer for Johnson County, also explained that housing a mentally ill patient experiencing a crisis costs about $100 a day which is almost three times more than inmates in the general population.
Crisis care has a cost of $100 a day. Regular care through out patient options a cost of roughly $48 a day. But $100 is just too much.
When those who need it most ask for bread, we give them stones.
The family in this case did something horrible. Truly horrific. It could have been stopped. There could have been more options.
It's OK though. Society has decided those options just aren't worth it. We've already set the value of the life of a mentally disabled person. And it's not worth the $44k a year.
We'll just give them stones.
“If you don’t reach out for help, it’s very easy to start making bad decisions,” said Lisa Mizell, CEO of the Child Protection Center in Kansas City. “It’s very easy to fall back on methods that are not appropriate.”Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/...
When bad decisions are made in baby steps, parents can often “normalize” what they are doing, in their own minds, she said.
Parents longing for control of a situation also can turn to controlling food, Mizell said.
Often, Mizell said, relatives and neighbors may see signs of neglect or abuse but don’t want to get involved or offend the parents, so they don’t report what they see.
If we don't start caring about the least of our people, those in the most need, what does it say about the kind of people we are?
I don't know. I do know it's time to get off the fast track to finding out.
Update: Interviews and stories.
The next door neighbor turned them in by calling the police after it was revealed he was locked up. He was held in a home that was a townhome style (with row houses all next door).
The neighbors in an interview say that the parents told them that the boy had went "out of town" so they didn't suspect he was being held in the basement.
The boy was removed from the home on a stretcher and is receiving immediate care for malnutrition and dehydration. NO decision has been made on IF charges will be filed.
The boy told investigators he had been down there since September 27 when he says his father took him out of school and locked him in the basement.
“He was very, very thin, very dehydrated. he looked very pale. Very grey when they brought him out… on a stretcher. It was bad. Very heartbreaking,” said Ashley Reppy, friend of the victim.
The boy, who Reppy said is developmentally delayed, told police he became hungry one time in October and left the basement to find some food, which made his father mad. The boy said his father then handcuffed him to a bed rail.
4:46 PM PT: The School District in NKC has released a statement:
The school has issued this statement:
North Kansas City School District officials, citing privacy issues, said they could not discuss the case in great detail. The boy had been a sophomore at a high school.Per state of Missouri guidelines, if you home school, a school cannot follow up or contact you regarding the progress of your student.
District officials said if a parent decides to home-school a child that the district cannot stop that or follow up on the student's progress.