A Colorado teen repeatedly threatens to kill her parents, but the state says that she doesn’t need mental health care. She has repeatedly been a danger to herself and others, according to her medical records. She has even attempted to poison the others in her group home, putting bleach in the ice cube trays instead of water. She had told her mother that she is going to kill her.
But Medicaid, which pays for the girl’s care, doesn’t think her condition is serious enough.
The teenager first tried to poison someone at age 8, and has told her mother, “Mom, you’re not safe. I’m going to kill you.”
In light of recent national tragedies, the teen’s parents, Charlie and Irene Rockwell, hope that getting their story out there will help make a change for their daughter — before another tragedy strikes.
“They feel that since she’s an adult now, they should be able to open the doors and hand her keys to her own apartment, literally,” said the girl’s adopted mother Irene. The main problem with the system, according to the teen’s parents, is that the state will only look at a person’ mental health record for the last 30 days. The teen’s parents say that they refuse to take into account their daughter’s entire medical history.
“We try to tell them what her pattern is,” said Charlie Rockwell, Megan’s biological father. But if the teen hasn’t had any major incidents within the last 30 days, permission for her to put into residential care is denied.
“The first thing that comes to my head… if someone says… starts pissing me off… it’s like: ‘Kill ‘em now,’ ” said the teen, who spoke with CALL7 investigator Theresa Marchetta. “I visualize myself doing it, torture them in my brain.”
While the teen’s care is funded by Medicaid, providers often disagree on what level of care the teen needs. According to the girl’s parents, they do not take her entire history into account.
The 19-year-old has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, mood and attachment disorders. Her health records document repeated “suicidal and homicidal” thoughts. “Every single therapist that has been involved with her deals with her for a year or two then turns around and says to me and my husband, ‘We’re sorry, you were right all along,’” Irene Rockwell said.
“The last time she tried to poison someone was in a residential facility,” Irene Rockwell said about an incident four years go. “She tried to poison the entire cottage by pouring the water out of the ice cube trays and filling them half with bleach and half with water.”
She doesn’t live with the family because she has threatened to harm them.
“We know what she’s capable of doing ’cause she’s done it in the past, and we get blown off,” said Charlie Rockwell.
The teen’s biological mother allegedly used drugs and was abusive to the girl. She was reportedly nearly drowned twice, and her mother tried to stab her in the head. The abuse continued until she was 4 years old, when her father, Charlie, and adoptive mother, Irene, received custody.
“She was put in a washing machine at 6 months old,” Charlie Rockwell said.
“She threatened to slit her therapist’s throat. She said, ‘If you don’t be quiet, there’s gonna be blood on the walls,’” Irene Rockwell said about an incident just over a month ago. “She can look at me and say, ‘Mom, you’re not safe. I’m gonna kill you.’ That’s another reason she doesn’t live with us.”
The dangerous mental health system, with its 30-day analysis, scares the family. Without receiving Medicaid for their daughter’s care, their only other option is to take her to the emergency room, and hope that they will keep her there temporarily until someone approved a more long-term solution. The option is called a “mental health hold.”
The teen’s parents are not the only one’s concerned about their daughter’s well-being. “I can’t be on the streets by myself, I can’t be,” the teen said. “I just flip, yelling, screaming. Am I gonna get hurt? Is someone gonna kidnap me?”
Tom Dillingham, executive director of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, said that the system puts teens like the Rockwell’s daughter back at square one after she became a legal adult.
“You have to start again and go through the whole perspective, redefine yourself and get into the system,” he said. “When you’re accessing the system and you don’t know where the money comes from, you don’t know how to get in the front door.”
“For a parent to have to constantly say, ‘My kid can’t love me, you have to help her.’ It kills us,” Irene Rockwell said.
“Why can’t I just be normal like they are? Why can’t I have brain function like the other kids do? It’s just rough sometimes being me,” the teen said.
After the Rockwells made a recent appeal to the state, a medical director denied authorization for the girl’s residential treatment, stating her “psychiatric symptoms are not severe and acute enough.”
More states are reconsidering their options for mental health care since the Newtown massacre of 20 schoolchildren by Adam Lanza. While gun control has been a hot topic, people like the Rockwells are more concerned about the state of the mental health system.
[Image via Shutterstock]