Tucson family fears for son's mental health

Tucson family fears for son's mental health

CREATED Jun 30, 2011

Reporter: Sergio Avila
Web Producer: Layla Tang

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tracy Rachwitz works whenever he can to pay for health care for his family, specifically, his 17-year-old-son who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHD among other illnesses. In recent months, Rachwitz hasn't been able to afford the $1,300 for his son's monthly medications.  He added that the family doesn't qualify for AHCCCS.

"Without his medications, a lot of times, he doesn't remember.  He gives blank stares.  That's a sign of trouble right there.  When he gives a point-blank stare, he's not comprehending what's going on," Rachwitz told 9 On Your Side's Sergio Avila.

Recently Rachwitz's son has been getting in trouble at both school and with the law.  It's something Clarke Romans of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  has been warning of since mental health services were cut last year.  Romans believes cutting these benefits just means the state pays more in other ways in the long run.

"People are being hospitalized, people are having law enforcement encounters, people are going to the emergency room.  Those are the most expensive services we render to citizens in this community," Romans said.

Rachwitz couldn't help but think of his son following in the footsteps of Jared Loughner, who faces charges in the mass shooting at Safeway.  The shooting made this father vow even more to make sure his son gets the help he needs.

"My biggest fear is that after the last couple incidents, he may end up doing it without his medications," Rachwitz said.

Romans told KGUN9 that NAMI and similar groups are no longer fighting for to restore services to the mentally ill.  Instead, he said, they're just working to stop the bleeding.

"I don't believe with the attitude of the people who are in the legislature now.  I don' t think we have any hope of getting any funding back," Romans said.  "What we're working on with other organizations in the state is to try and prevent another round of cuts."

Romans is quick to point out there's still a stigma associated with mental illness and that it's a disease that many people know very little about.

"You wouldn't ask a blind person to travel a heavily-traveled street without some kind of support.  We're asking these people to go through life, even though they have a serious mental illness, without support and it's just not going to happen," Romans said.

Rachwitz was unaware of NAMI, so 9 On Your Side put them in touch.  With so many requests for help, Romans tells KGUN9 their organization has been strained, but there are ways they can help.  In some instances they've helped people like Rachwitz get medications from Canada where they are often much less expensive.