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A Balcony View: Therapy over medication

August 17, 2010

Last week, I began a story about a teenager placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold by the Glendale police. I left off with the boy about to be transferred from Glendale Adventist Medical Center to BHC Alhambra Hospital, a psychiatric facility.

Several months before this incident occurred, a psychiatrist in Glendale had begun prescribing Abilify to the boy. On more than one occasion, the father had voiced his disapproval of drugs as a long-term treatment for his son to both the psychiatrist and the boy's mother. In the father's opinion, the boy needed therapy, not pacification.

With that in mind, the father leaves a message for the psychiatrist on the evening of the boy's arrest. He wants answers. But she does not return his call. So on Friday morning, the father exercises his right as joint legal custodian — he fires the psychiatrist.


A pattern now begins to emerge. The teenager has gone from police custody to Glendale Adventist to BHC Alhambra Hospital. Yet there has been no word from anyone as to his intake or condition. The father calls BHC Alhambra Hospital looking for information. But the hospital staff refuses to discuss the matter.

The father goes to the hospital during visiting hours. It has been 24 hours since he watched his son taken away in handcuffs. The boy appears confused and upset. He wants to go home. The father tells him it is not possible.

"Have you spoken to anyone?"

"I talked to a doctor for five minutes," the boy replies.

The boy tells his father that they gave him Abilify and something else. Later, the father discovers the "something else" was Lexipro.

"I didn't know they were giving you drugs," the father says.

For the rest of the visit, the father tries to keep the conversation light. But in his mind, the father is thinking about how to get his son back.

On Saturday, the father calls BHC Alhambra Hospital again. He wants to know who has approved prescribing additional drugs to his son. He gets no answer. He calls the boy's mother, who tells him that the hospital is going to use the 72-hour hold as an opportunity to see if they can balance out the effects of the Abilify.

"Our son needs therapy, not more drugs," the father tells his ex-wife. "He's not getting it there."

"I don't feel safe with him at home," she responds.

"Then he can stay with me until things get worked out. He's never displayed the same behavior at my house," the father says.

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