Stranger Rescues Son In Hawaii, Escorts Him Home To Montana


(8-9-17) It’s important to report stories that document how difficult it is to get meaningful mental health care in our nation. Here’s a recent email exchange sent to me Dr. Gary Mihelish, president of National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter in Helena, Montana and a long time mental health advocate.

            Dear Dr. Mihelish,

My son who has schizophrenia or more likely schizoeffective disorder was released from St. Peter’s hospital and became manic.   He bought a one way ticket to Kona, Hawaii.   He’s been off his medications since he went the first week of March.  

He’s at the point now where he will likely die in Hawaii if I can’t get him back and get him a place to stay.   Helena would be better than Bozeman because we currently have no services.   

He’s been on the waiting list in Bozeman for housing.  I’m not sure where he is at.   

 Do you guys have any contacts or people I can contact?   John has been in the ER in Hawaii but doesn’t meet criteria to stay.   He’s not able to respond or function.   He keeps getting all his stuff stolen and currently only has the clothes and flip flops he’s wearing.   

He’s not able to stay with me – so I need to step back and let others care for him -all I can do is be a cheerleader for him.   

Thank you for any suggestions you may have.   


Dear Susan,

My first quick thought.  Go to the NAMI website and get the number for NAMI Hawaii.  Then call them and ask them if they have any thoughts.  I will follow up with you later. Gary

Thanks Gary.  Called NAMI Hawaii and found they aren’t functioning well. 

But a kind lady  found my son standing across from the ER in Hawaii since he was discharged because that’s how much he’s not functioning.   He’s really gone downhill.   3.5 months off his medications would cause that.  

 I need to get him back from Hawaii  but he’ll need treatment and meds  first.  And a place to stay after that.  

 Just giving an update.   




I arranged to get  John back from Hawaii.   He needed an escort or he would not have made it.   The escort was a lovely retired social worker, who befriended John earlier and tried to get him to come home.   A couple days later she saw John in worse shape —  everything but what he was wearing was stolen from him.   He was half catatonic  but still refused medications. She intervened and brought him home.

 I took him to the ER in Helena last Sunday.  

 Because I said he couldn’t stay with me and was homeless, they were able to start the process of involuntary commitment.   I have legal guardianship and can get him hospitalized but they would not be able to require meds.   So admitting him while refusing meds would not help.   Tuesday we had the hearing and he was committed.   It seemed this was because I said he couldn’t live with me.   It’s so sad and heart breaking that I couldn’t get him help before when he was living with me.  Even though I was trying very hard.   

I’m thankful that he’s going to get the help he needs.   The doctor from Warm Springs called and we had a good conversation.   I feel he is in good hands.   They said he’ll be there for some time because he is so bad and they need to get him stable.   The treatment team will be looking for a home with supervision upon discharge as well. 

 Now I can focus on being his cheerleader. 

 I’m thankful to the CRT’s and the ER staff who saw how much help he needed.   

I’m sure it would not be the same story had I brought him to the ER in Bozeman.   You’ve helped get a wonderful  team in place.   I’m forever grateful.  Susan 

Dear Susan,

I am glad your son is in the Warm Springs State Hospital and is hopefully receiving the treatment he deserves.  Let us hope he gets better.  The doctor saying he will be there a long time is hopeful.  They usually try to get them out in 30 days.  Keep being the cheerleader.  He will need one.  The lady who brought him home deserves a medal!  Please keep me informed.  Here in Helena we thought Bozeman had better services.   Gary

Gary, No way,  our CRT’s treat the family horrible.   

We also had a young lady who had a gun to her head,  her dad grabbed her as she pulled the trigger.   The bullet missed her.   The CRT’s here asked her if she was suicidal and she said no,  so they were going to discharge her.   The officers who brought her in were very upset about that because she clearly was suicidal.  They don’t think to look at actions,  they go based on the words.     The officers charged  for discharging a gun in front of a minor ( her younger sister was in the house) so she could be kept in a safe place,  if you can consider the jail safe.   We need to fix Bozeman badly.   

 There is a more compassion in the ER staff and CRT staff there.   I always thank them and tell them they are wonderful.   One day they will be missing because I’m going to steal them away.   

 I pray my son will be open to the help being offered.   Thank you for all you do to help the people with mental illness and their families.   We have a HUGE problem in our area and we need to showcase how bad it is.  

Dear Susan,

Like when my son was in the Hope House waiting for a bed in Helena for being suicidal.  He tried to commit suicide in the Hope house twice, once by trying to strangle himself with his shoelaces, the other by slashing his wrists, but Jane Doe (not her real name.) called me up and repeatedly told me (7 times, I counted), we need the bed, he needs to go home.   Do what you can, let me know what else I can do on my end.  Gary.


I hope this opens eyes.

My heart breaks that it took me being at the end of my rope and saying he could not live with me before I could get him help. 

Sending a huge hug!


(The name of the mother and her son have been changed for privacy reasons.)

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.