Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

Post Premium: Top stories for the week of Nov. 29-Dec. 5 – The Denver Post

Matt Vinnola lay curled up on a downtown sidewalk one Sunday in September, his eyes as blank as those of the stuffed lamb he was using as a pillow. The former honors student and youth Taekwondo champion seemed too out of it to shoo a fly off his lip or realize he was urinating through his shorts onto the concrete. If he noticed the woman offering Wet Wipes or the man trying to hand him a $5 bill, he showed no interest.

“Tell them, just tell them I don’t need help so stop it,” he grumbled to no one in plain sight.

The voices in Vinnola’s head can be so loud, so constant, he figures everyone can hear them. Chronic paranoid schizophrenia and an addiction to shooting up whatever he can find to still the voices have landed the 29-year-old Denverite in emergency rooms, psychiatric wards and jails so many times that his mother stopped counting.

Crisis after crisis, Janet van der Laak had to push the Mental Health Center of Denver to provide care for her son instead of finding reasons to deny it. Each time the center dropped him from treatment, Vinnola lost more faith in seeking help. And the more faith he lost, the harder his mother pressed.

“What kind of safety-net system blows off the hardest cases?” van der Laak once wrote in a note to herself. “Giving up on Matt, giving up on anyone in crisis should not be an option.”

— Full story via Susan Greene, Colorado News Collaborative

Investigation: Colorado’s mental health safety net marked by lack of competition, oversight and transparency

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