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Tips on Advocating for your LO’s Aftercare

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Allies in Recovery member esta4 has had a breakthrough with her alcoholic son, and thanks to a chain of events, a police officer who took the time to help, and guidance from this site, her son is currently headed to a treatment program…

"After 12 years of coping with our adult son's alcoholism with the last 3 being the most difficult, a police officer directed us to an involuntary section 12 at our local hospital because our son was harming himself and his behavior while drunk made us fearful. While I knew about chapter 35, section 12 was new to me even though we had taken him to the emergency room several times. The emergency room had a behavioral pod which knew how to handle his issues, however, they were going to release him the next morning, and that is when I made them listen to me. I told them I would not come and get him, that his behavior made me fearful, and that he would be right back there within the week. They kept him on an involuntary section 12. Yes, he was angry with me for a few days, but once the detox became less severe, he realized the value of where he was and extended his stay with a voluntary section 12. He is in the locked behavioral health ward which is somewhat intimidating, but leaves there next week with an entire rehab program in place and the understanding that slipping means another stay in that ward. Until the police officer gave us this information, we were floundering. A quick email to Dominique also brought the support I needed. AIR is a Godsend and so is our local police department. We are praying for a full recovery with the knowledge that we now have the tools for that possibility."

Thanks for posting this esta4. I just want to elaborate on a few key points from our discussion.

Getting a release from your Loved One

It was important that esta4 get a release from her son to speak to the clinicians at the hospital. She advocated early and often until this happened. Psychiatric hospitals can sometimes focus on mental illness to the detriment of the substance abuse problem. Aftercare must focus on both. The family must advocate for follow-up psychiatric treatment and a plan for ongoing substance abuse treatment. The family may need to get in there and push for this.

Be an advocate for your Loved One's treatment plan

Being discharged to a family’s home with a suggestion that the patient attend AA is not enough. Esta4 followed our methodology for finding treatment. You can’t assume the hospital will do the work of putting together a comprehensive treatment plan that considers both mental health needs and the treatment for addiction. It will be important for the hospital and family to be suggesting the same plan; that plan needs to address both mental illness and substance abuse, and the hospital should provide guidance and a warm handoff to the patient for that treatment.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. My son is 35,has mental illness and been an alcoholic for many years. He has been homeless off and on since 21. He has never held a job.I recently had him apply for DMH services but it’s been a few weeks and they still can’t tell me if he has been approved yet? He tries to make it but being homeless(he is on SSI) and the rents even for a room are more than he receives each month. When things get so overwhelming and frightening for him,he starts drinking,gets way out of control,and eventually signs himself into the hospital.He will be there 2 weeks or more and then they discharge him to the streets,where the vicious cycle keeps continuing. Without a place to live I fear he will die sooner than later. He has had 33 hospitalizations since 2011~I am all he has but I live in a senior community on a fixed income that does not allow guests,so I can’t help at all. He is the kindest, gentlest, human being,never been arrested or in any trouble and wouldn’t hurt anyone except himself. I believe he is on the autism spectrum but since all doctors”know best” all they see is his alcohol abuse and will not consider the possibility. He was a special needs kid(ADHD), diagnosed at age 5 and put on stimulant meds that never worked, so this has become an ongoing learned coping mechanism. He needs a group home or a halfway house that is subsidized and that will accept a dual diagnoses individual on medication. Sober houses with felons and no real supervision will not work for him. I have no where else to turn. If you could give me some ideas I would appreciate it

    1. Just as an addendum,We received a letter from DMH and they denied him services! Diagnosed with mental illness at 14 but since he has been drinking since being homeless the last few years they say basically the alcohol may have overshadowed his mental state which can now not be proven! What a ridiculous reason since he drinks because of his mental illness and oh yes…being homeless not conducive to mental state. He’s still in hospital and they gave me 10 days to appeal. If his medical records aren’t enough proof I don’t have anything else to argue his case with. I was so sure he would be approved. Not sure where to turn now..

      1. We will try to find someone knowledgable to help explain this process and provide next steps.

        In the meantime, the appeal process mentions scheduling an informal hearing with the area director in the next ten days. It may be worth doing this to keep the case open.

        Here is the link to NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) local affiliates.
        Perhaps there is someone local to your area who knows the intricacies of appealing.

        In our post to you we also mention the new SAMHSA grant in western Mass. for homeless people who are dually diagnosed.

        Get some rest. We’ll pick this up in the morning.

        1. Thank you..Somehow I can’t find where your last post went regarding the SAMHSA grant info. Do you know where I can look on the site?

    2. Your son’s history is so sad and underlines what I was saying in the original post you responded to. Hospitals respond to acute care needs. Once stabilized they quickly discharge, too often without a carefully thought-out plan that considers both mental illness and substance use. Around and around it goes, while your son gets sicker and older and nothing gets resolved.

      To read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to gramma40, follow this link: