My husband and I are natives of North Carolina. We are the parents of a son with a mental illness that he did not choose. Every mother’s desire is for her child to be healthy. When our son became sick in his late teens, this began the battle for my son’s very life.

Once our son was diagnosed with a mental illness, we began the challenge of providing him the care he needed for him to survive. This included multiple hospitalizations, substance abuse programs, 24-hour supervision and years of working closely with his doctors to find the medications that best suited him. This required putting my life aside to fight for his care. Our normal was no more. Countless hours of prayer and endless tears became my life. Fighting for his care, getting the support needed, became my normal as life outside of ours continued on.

After more than 10 years of fighting alongside my son, he is finally stable. This is made possible by providing my son a safe and familiar environment through the supervision of his meds along with the watchful eye of the team caregivers around him with their quick response when a red flag arises. This also includes the emotional support needed to comfort and support him. I’ve witnessed firsthand the sadness and disappointment in his eyes as he has had to realize what this illness has stolen from him.

Upon hearing about this change in Medicaid related to the Institution of Mental Disease issue in North Carolina Adult Care Homes, I was devastated. Hopeless due to the fear of going back 12 years and starting the battle of finding the appropriate care again. If this Medicaid issue is not put on hold until proper housing is available, starting over is exactly what we will have to do. There are two-year waiting lists at group homes, and with 1,200 residents throughout our state, immediate residency for those asked to leave is certainly not possible within 60 days. I am begging you not only for my son but for the hundreds of others throughout our state without a voice to wait. To wait until the appropriate steps are taken to ensure their housing, to ensure their safety, their well being. By putting someone like my son on the streets or in an unsupervised apartment, it means risking a total relapse of recovery and sacrificing all of your years of hard work. When I go to visit my son, I see other residents of Hunter Village who are so grateful for the small things, things we take for granted in life, who are satisfied just having a simple meal and a bed to sleep on. I have to ask: Is it fair to these innocent victims, for my son, to be put on the streets and unknowingly at that?

As a resident of North Carolina and as a mother, I have witnessed the struggles and effects of mental illness, not only on the community and our family but on my son as well. He has had to endure many struggles and, through that, has been very brave and courageous in his fight with mental illness. I pray you do the right thing in giving my son and others like him the respect they deserve by ensuring them the quality of life that is now at risk.

I am very grateful for the care that has been provided for our son in the state of North Carolina, and I thank you on behalf of the other residents. We would not be where we are in this journey with mental illness without the help that we have received.

Please contact your local and state representatives to fight for the care of mental illness patients.

– Pat Townsend

Editor’s note: Pat Townsend requested her son’s name and diagnosis not be included in this letter.