Mother desperate to access mental health treatment for daughter

Since early childhood, Jessica Deshiro says her eldest daughter has shown signs of aggression. In recent years, she says, her behavior has become much worse. She worries that her daughter poses a safety risk to others, including her other three children. “That is my worst fear. It is going to take my daughter killing somebody for her to be seen,” Deshiro said. She wants her daughter involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for long-term, residential mental health treatment. “If she didn’t ‘t like what you said, she would grab a knife and come at me. And meanwhile, her younger siblings would be hearing the commotion,” Deshiro said. “Her sister, who is now 7, she dragged her across to a carpeted floor and smashed her face into the floor,” she added. Diagnoses for the teen, Deshiro says, include oppositional defiant disorder and mood dysregulation. She also has autism. “For a little bit there, I was embarrassed. ‘What did I do wrong? Is it because I’m a single mom? Did you not give her enough attention?’ You know, you go through all these things,” Deshiro said. There’s been therapy and numerous visits to emergency departments. She’s now living in a Penobscot County teen shelter. Deshiro says Maine’s psychiatric hospitals either have no space or can’t meet her needs. A Tennessee youth facility agreed to take her, but there’s a waitlist.”I always have to keep pushing those boundaries, telling them, ‘No, she is not suicidal anymore. She is homicidal,'” Deshiro said. “Teens. Like I said, it hurts my heart,” said Carlene Mahaffey. Mahaffey is a certified intentional peer support specialist living in Lewiston. Peer support specialists are certified to provide trauma-informed support through lived experience with mental health challenges.”I think there’s this rush to have this like, we need something done now, when sometime in reality, sometimes that’s just going to make things worse in the long run,” Mahaffey said. Involuntary commitment through Maine’s white and blue paper process has come into focus recently. In November, Justin Butterfield, a man with severe psychiatric conditions, was accused of killing his brother. Loved ones say they unsuccessfully tried to have him committed. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams recently introduced a plan to take people who appear to be “mentally ill” and “a danger to themselves” into custody for evaluations. “Just remember that they are a person. Ask them what’s going on. Listen to them. Have patience. Sit with your own discomfort,” Mahaffey said. Mahaffey highlights peer respite care for adults, which is voluntary short-term, non-clinical treatment. Deshiro feels hospitalization is their last, best option for a girl she loves and holds hope for. “She is such a sweet kid. If you really get to know her. She’s yeah, she’s super sweet. She loves horseback riding,” Deshiro said. Within the last week, Deshiro experienced heartbreak. After the facility in Tennessee said they were ready to take her, they followed up and put her intake on pause. Deshiro doesn’t know when she will be able to bring her daughter there. In a statement Wednesday, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services touted proposed funding improvements for behavioral health services of $237 million in federal and state support including $17 million for the children’s behavioral health system. “This investment includes supporting a new system and staff to connect children with needed services, additional services to meet complex needs, education, and training. These initiatives were heavily informed by extensive stakeholder engagement,” DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said in a statement. The agency also says the availability of residential services for children is directly affected by providers’ ability to hire and retain staff amid record low unemployment levels.

Since early childhood, Jessica Deshiro says her eldest daughter has shown signs of aggression. In recent years, she says, her behavior has become much worse. She worries that her daughter poses a safety risk to others, including her other three children.

“That is my worst fear. It is going to take my daughter killing somebody for her to be seen,” Deshiro said.

She wants her daughter involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for long-term, residential mental health treatment.

“If she didn’t like what you said, she would grab a knife and come at me. And meanwhile, her younger siblings would be hearing the commotion,” Deshiro said.

“Her sister, who is now 7, she dragged her across to a carpeted floor and smashed her face into the floor,” she added.

Diagnoses for the teen, Deshiro says, include oppositional defiant disorder and mood dysregulation. She also has autism.

“For a little bit there, I was embarrassed. ‘What did I do wrong? Is it because I’m a single mom? Did I not give her enough attention?’ You know, you go through all these things,” Deshiro said.

There’s been therapy and numerous visits to emergency departments.

She’s now living in a Penobscot County teen shelter.

Deshiro says Maine’s psychiatric hospitals either have no space or can’t meet her needs.

A Tennessee youth facility agreed to take her, but there’s a waitlist.

“I always have to keep pushing those boundaries, telling them, ‘No, she is not suicidal anymore. She is homicidal,'” Deshiro said.

“Teens. Like I said, it hurts my heart,” said Carlene Mahaffey.

Mahaffey is a certified intentional peer support specialist living in Lewiston.

Peer support specialists are certified to provide trauma-informed support through lived experience with mental health challenges.

“I think there’s this rush to have this like, we need something done now, when sometimes in reality, sometimes that’s just going to make things worse in the long run,” Mahaffey said.

Involuntary commitment through Maine’s white and blue paper process has come into focus recently.

In November, Justin Butterfield, a man with severe psychiatric conditions, was accused of killing his brother.

Loved ones say they unsuccessfully tried to have him committed.

In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams recently introduced a plan to take people who appear to be “mentally ill” and “a danger to themselves” into custody for evaluations.

“Just remember that they are a person. Ask them what’s going on. Listen to them. Have patience. Sit with your own discomfort,” Mahaffey said.

Mahaffey highlights peer respite care for adults, which is voluntary short-term, non-clinical treatment.

Deshiro feels hospitalization is their last, best option for a girl she loves and holds hope for.

“She is such a sweet kid. If you really get to know her. She’s yeah, she’s super sweet. She loves horseback riding,” Deshiro said.

Within the last week, Deshiro experienced heartbreak.

After the facility in Tennessee said they were ready to take her, they followed up and put her intake on pause.

Deshiro doesn’t know when she will be able to bring her daughter there.

In a statement Wednesday, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services touted proposed funding improvements for behavioral health services of $237 million in federal and state support including $17 million for the children’s behavioral health system.

“This investment includes supporting a new system and staff to connect children with needed services, additional services to meet complex needs, education, and training. These initiatives were heavily informed by extensive stakeholder engagement,” DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said in a statement.

The agency also says the availability of residential services for children is directly affected by providers’ ability to hire and retain staff amid record low unemployment levels.

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