Mental health advocates rally for change

Photo provided by staff.
Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 3:39pm

One in four adults has a mental illness. Today, mental health advocates rallied at the State Capitol. They're hoping lawmakers can help them protect people with mental illness.

Advocates said they feel like the mental health community is being forgotten. So, they want to see legislation that will protect those with mental illnesses before something bad happens.

Wanda Fellman spent her day on the steps of the Capitol. She's fighting for her son.

"He was such an intricate part of my life. You know, he was in my life every day," Fellman said.

April 8, 2013, it's a day Fellman will never forget. It's the day her son Bradford died.

"It was just him and I, and now it's just me," Fellman said.

Fellman's son had schizophrenia. He was killed during an argument with the police. Fellman said things could have been different if police had known bradford had a mental illness.

"When police are called to a certain address, they need to know upfront that somebody there has a mental illness. Someone there is dealing with schizophrenia . There's a way you handle people with schizophrenia," Fellman said.

Bill O'Quin agreed.

"We need to make sure first responders can immediately identify somebody that's in a full-blown psychotic event," O'Quin said.

Bill's son also had schizophrenia.

"He was restrained in physical restraints. Those restraints ended up causing a embolism which started in the restraint marks and bruises on his legs and went through his heart and he died," Bill explained.

Now a year later, they're here on the steps of the Capitol fighting for justice... fighting for change.

"My son is gone now. There's nothing I can do for him. It's all about the next child," Fellman said.

They are not alone. Advocates from across the state want lawmakers to provide more funding for mental health care. So Louisiana has more facilities to help people who need it, instead of sending them to jail if something goes wrong.

"Because as it is now, they release them. They're on their own volition, and no of them believe they have a problem. So, why should they take their meds? So, we're going to have to reverse that because we have no place to put them," O'Quin said.

Advocates are not done yet. They're planning to go back to the capitol steps later this session.

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