A Colorado family’s struggle with a young woman’s mental illness confronts a terrifying reality

The mother of Olivia Schack he sits at home and worries. “We’re trying to protect her from herself. She’s more of a danger to herself than anyone else. But it’s almost impossible,” says Kendra Anderson. “I’m just lost.”

Schack is now 24 years old. She has been in the Colorado Mental Health Hospital in Pueblo for nearly a year as she is evaluated to see if she is competent to stand trial. Four times, experts have determined that it is not.

Now her family is worried that she will be put back on the streets where she is in danger.

“She’s a 24-year-old girl who’s been assaulted many times. I mean, she’s not even telling us everything. I mean, she’s been in and out of the hospital, I don’t know how many times,” he said. her mother.



A Jefferson County judge will hold a hearing Monday in which the charges against Schack are likely to be dropped. He is accused of assaulting his father.

Charges the family wouldn’t have pressed, unless people in the county’s mental health system told them the best way to get her help would be to arrest her and enter the criminal justice system.

For nearly six months, he remained in the Jefferson County Jail, waiting for a bed in Pueblo where he has been since late spring of last year. During all this time, she has not been convicted of any crime.

Her family talks to her often.

“He’s been on six or nine different medications for the past year,” says his mother. “They make her sick.” Schack has schizoaffective disorder and depression and is bipolar. “Some of them help a little bit. But he still has the voices,” explains Kendra Anderson. “There is no healing process.”

Healing is not the role of state facilities for people facing criminal prosecution. They have to get people to understand the procedure at trial. The voices he hears have gotten better at times, but they haven’t gone away.

She has said she feels safe there and the staff is friendly, her mother says. But Schack has had three different social workers.

“A social worker told me they’re not going to let her go; they’re going to try to put her in a civil engagement group at home from there. That was at the beginning. And then the new social worker came in and said, ‘ Oh, no, that’s not our policy.”

The judge could order Schack into a temporary mental health detention, but these, known as M1s, are only for 72 hours.

After that, the court would have the option of adding a three-month hold, after six months for people in those situations, the state Department of Human Services’ Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health says .

“We have no legal basis to hold anyone after charges are dropped,” department spokesman Jordan Johnson said. Johnson said people are not discharged without being offered options for services such as community mental health options or to find housing. But there is a difficulty.

“There is definitely a shortage of community mental health options,” she added.

They help them restore Medicaid benefits. But it’s up to the customer to look for them; they cannot be forced. Her mom says she won’t and it doesn’t make sense.

“If he goes out on the street, I mean, I don’t even know how he survived the last time,” she said.

Kendra Anderson and her husband, as well as Schack’s father and his wife, have talked about taking her in. But that hasn’t worked in the past. They can’t lock her in the basement, says her mother.

“I have a house for her. She can live with me. She can live with her father. But she doesn’t want to… she’ll take off. Nothing is dangerous to her.”



Schack has disappeared for months at a time.

Her mother says her daughter has told her she won’t continue taking the prescribed medication if she’s discharged, and asks, “Do I have to be sober?” if you get another home. Schack is self-medicating.

The family has inquired about whether he had been engaged in the past, but has been told it is simply too difficult. “There’s nowhere for a lot of these people to go,” Kendra Anderson said.

The Jefferson County District Attorney’s office handling Schack’s prosecution Wednesday night said it could not discuss the case due to privacy laws, but issued a statement about the mental illness:

“As prosecutors, our primary responsibility is to uphold the law while ensuring that justice is served ethically and within the bounds of our statutory obligations. While the recent legislative expansion of civil commitment language was a step moving forward, its impact remains to be seen in the 1st Judicial District Unfortunately, Colorado is home to a sizable number of adults suffering from mental illness, with a system ill-equipped to support them to serve the nation No there are easy solutions to address this crisis, but the bottom line is that mental health treatment must be accessible and separate from the justice system.”

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