What Do You Do With a Violent, Developmentally Disabled, Mentally Ill Kid?

Brian Turner is pretty sure his son was planning to kill him. But he never meant for him to go to jail.

One night last fall, Turner and his wife, Terri, smelled sulfur and found their 16-year-old adopted son inhaling fumes from a spray can in his bedroom, a steak knife at his feet. When confronted, he got violent — ultimately resisting Brian's efforts to restrain him, punching holes through walls, ripping through dry wall, and running out of the house.

Later, they would learn that the boy had told his older sister the day before that he'd found a knife and wanted to hurt his parents, "said that he wishes that Dad died. I told him, Don't ever say that again," his sister described in a handwritten testimonial.

Brian Turner's oldest son
Courtesy of Brian Turner
Brian Turner's oldest son
Brian and Terri Turner and their five children
Courtesy of Brian Turner
Brian and Terri Turner and their five children

According to Brian Turner — confirmed by medical paperwork he's provided to New Times — his son is a very sick young man, the victim of physical and sexual abuse, as well as fetal alcohol syndrome. His IQ is 52, and his anger apparently is severe enough to warrant a shelf-full of strong drugs, from lithium on down.

When he called the cops that night, Turner figured his son would wind up back at the high-level mental-treatment facility in Texas where he'd been stabilized months before. Instead, the court sent him to jail — the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Brian Turner was horrified.

Years ago, the adolescent unit at Arizona State Hospital was shuttered because of a lack of funds. The state's "kid jail" has been the place where violent, mentally ill kids get treated. Or not. For years, New Times catalogued abuses at ADJC, including terrible mental-health services. The good news, says the department's newest director, Charles Flanagan, is that fewer kids than ever are incarcerated in the state and they receive better care than ever.

In terms of quantity, Flanagan is right. There are only two locked juvenile facilities left in the state, housing just more than 300 kids at the moment. But when it comes to quality, we have to take the director's word for it, because all records are private. Brian Turner has to take his word for it, too. He is no longer in charge of his son's care — the boy is now a ward of the state.

In sporadic phone calls, the boy has reported to Turner that he doesn't take his medication when he doesn't feel like it. Staff has confirmed to Turner that his son doesn't always take his pills, and they say they've lowered the dosage of some of his drugs. Turner is convinced that the latest problems last fall started when the boy began "cheeking" his medicine. Turner believes strongly that his son must follow the treatment plan prescribed by the Texas facility.

ADJC personnel haven't been particularly receptive to Turner's concerns, he says.

Flanagan cannot legally talk about specific cases, he says. "The parent's role and responsibility is still important," he says, but adds, "Quite frankly, sometimes the parents are the enablers of the behavior."

He emphasizes that trained professionals are evaluating kids and prescribing care.

"The parent might not be right, and the parent may not give us the kind of respect that we should have," Flanagan says.

Only about a third of the parents of these incarcerated kids are involved at all in visiting them and attending (either in person or via phone) monthly "staffings," Flanagan says.

These days, the headlines are filled with stories about young men who surprise their families by turning violent. This boy's behavior surprised no one. He was violent from the day they brought him home.

Turns out, that doesn't make figuring out how to parent a kid like this any easier.

"I used to think that the transition from 18 to the adult system was bad, but I think these situations are even worse," says Clarke Romans, director of NAMI of Southern Arizona, a chapter of a national mental health advocacy group.

"This group of kids is [an] almost intractable problem, given the way the system works, the way the laws are, and given the nature of the disorders."


Brian Turner has lived all over the state and worked as both a band teacher and a school resource officer. For the past few years, his family has settled in Benson, in southern Arizona, where Turner's now an ordained minister. A heart defect has slowed him down. He's been too healthy for a heart transplant but not healthy enough to work much, he says on the phone between labored breaths. It was the heart defect that made him decide to adopt — he didn't want to pass it down to a child.

So, now, he and Terri have five kids — four from one family, and another son adopted later. In many ways, he says, it's been rewarding.

"These kids show up with garbage bags for their belongings. They don't know what a home is," he says.

"I'll never forget the kids' first Christmas. They had no idea what it was . . . We videotaped it, and the look on their faces. They didn't understand that was for them."

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
36 comments
don.dodondo
don.dodondo

Too bad the libbies at the ACLU have managed to destroy the ability of society to permanently house this kind of person in a mental institution.  Now we will have to wait until he kills someone before he is finally removed for the public safety.

zohara2323
zohara2323

Sometimes mandatory medication is the best choice, for the violet person, their family and society as a whole.  The mentally ill do not always understand the importance of medication to decrease and/or control their behavior, and some understand the ramifications and just don't care about themselves or others.  With a teenager it is hard to tell which is true and they often lack sufficient life experience to be able to control themselves or make effective choices.  With the information currently presented to the public, and in the interest of keeping everyone involved safe (particularly the other children in the home), this young man needs to be put on mandatory medication for the foreseeable future.   

brianrev
brianrev

I would like to update; the Lawyer Referral Program would/could not help according to their front line defense operator. I was only given Durango and SCS numbers with no really useful advice as the call taker did not have the time or understanding of this complex situation. However; it was quite sad when she responded; "how can he refuse his medication, he's not an adult???" Funny huh? Recent, horrific events mention this same event happening in their earlier lives; refusal of required medication! bturner

brianrev
brianrev

I am grateful and respectful of most of the opinions; of course there are going to be differences, that is the respect. I have tried the lawyers referral line and wait my 60 minutes and then have to restart. "ACSPARROW" I am most interested in hearing more from you. I would want nothing more than a court order having him serve his consequences in a behavioral health setting appropriate to him. He is accountable and responsible; no argument. I just want an alive son able to transition into adulthood. The ADOJC is not a reputable place or cooperative place for this type of consequence. B Turner

donlong1980
donlong1980

This guy should win father of the year!!! Seems like his kid already had some issues to deal with, but now his "father" put everything out there for all of Phoenix to read. Even worse, the "father" posts the kids picture to remove all doubt of who he is.

Brian, just let the state raise your kid. I'm sure they can't screw up any worse than you just did. He is really going to need mental health treatment when his friends read this.

maryis
maryis

I'm still in disbelief at how Marty Attencio was tortured on camera and left to die and yet no one has been criminally prosecuted. Only is Az.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

Hey Silverman - how exactly do you justify writing an article sympathetic to this mentally ill kid when, if he was an adult, you'd be just as likely to make fun of him in your mugshots of the week like you did with mentally ill Mart Atencio?

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

I love the question posed in the title of this article- "WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A VIOLENT, DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED, MENTALLY ILL KID?"    

simple- you name him Robert, get him interested in Joe Arpaio, give him the screenname "JoeArpaioFan" and sit his ass in front of a computer..............thats what someone else did. if you dont believe me, check the comments below

beiging68
beiging68

It sounds so easy: get them treatment, make them take their meds, and everything should work out fine. However, getting them treatment can be pretty complicated when you have a child with an SMI (serious mental illness) who has parents with SMIs and grandparents with SMIs. When your life story starts out with "my parents met in a mental hospital" or "my parents met in rehab" treatment becomes a far more complicated issue. If you get lucky and you have a simple straightforward diagnosis, say schizophrenia, then you have to play "pin the tail on the donkey" by trying different meds that take up to a month to improve the kid and will often make the kid worse before they get better. Many psych meds are not nearly as effective for kids and teens as they are for adults. Lastly, many SMIs are only treatable, not curable and treatment is not always 100% effective. You might only be able to make them a little less violent or you might get lucky and get a child who is only problematic once a month or so. Kids and teens that are violent and have an SMI often end up in jails and juvenile correctional facilities because they have been unable or unwilling to use their "coping skills" to be housed in less secure facilities. There are more of these kids presenting with SMIs every year and we do not have enough funds to take decent care of many of those who have already been in the system for years.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

so our state is set up  to where a kid who needs help goes to jail and receives no treatment, but gov.  Jan's rapist son gets treatment to avoid prison?

acsparrow
acsparrow

Brian, contact the Volunteer Lawyers Program in Phoenix. If you qualify as low income, they can find a lawyer to represent you for free. I think it's outrageous that the ADJC won't (and apparently doesn't want to) forcibly medicate your son. In my book, this is child abuse. I am so sorry for what you and your family are going through. Get a court order that these people cannot ignore!

robert_graham
robert_graham

Society cannot allow people like him to pollute our streets causing a public safety concern.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

so instead of putting a kid who is mentally ill in a place where he can be treated by proper medical care people, he is instead turned over to the care of the same system that provided the medical care Marty Atencio and Deborah Braillard (as well as many others) got? whats next ? treating the elderly the way they did in "Logans Run"?

AnotherMesaVoter
AnotherMesaVoter

Maricopa County would be the worst place for someone like Brian Turner.  The understanding of mental illness and children's behavior problems especially for the disabled seem to be non-existent.  I wonder if it's because of religion at times, "spare the rod, spoil the child", instead of acknowledging that treating people cruel is not the way to help them.  I guess that would depend on if their goal was to help them which doesn't seem to be the case either. I thought of Marty Atencio while reading this story.

acsparrow
acsparrow

@brianrev Hi Brian. I'm glad you responded. Please email me at acsparrow@hotmail.com with your contact information, and I'll be glad to help in whatever way I can. I'm an attorney volunteer, and I can certainly get past the front line operator. I think that your goal of wanting a living son who can transition into adulthood is pretty reasonable!

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@donlong1980 I think that you're wrong on this.  The father adopted the child, thereby helping the state by taking this child out of the foster care system and providing a loving, stable house for this child.  That is truly God's work to give a child that is not biologically yours a home and a family.  The child's deficits existed pre-adoption.  Brian's fault, if he has one, is that he is not a miracle worker and couldn't fully undue all the damage that the child's birth family caused - but its hard to blame him for not being able to work absolute miracles.  Brian gets all the credit in the world for trying as hard as he has to help this young man.  And now Brian is trying to help fix the system that he believes, from his first hand knowledge, is broken.  Kudos to Brian - the world would be a better place with more poeple like him.

bob_lablaw96
bob_lablaw96

@donlong1980 I call bullshit donlong!  The family has done a Yeoman's job in trying to help those children from much less fortunate lives.  Sometimes, there is no way to win in a fight with the system, and this is one of those times.  This boy should never have been adopted out unless he was in full compliance with all of his meds.


Until you have lived with someone that has mental issues and refuses to take their meds, you have no basis for your dumbass comment.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@JoeArpaioFan  so does Brewers kinife point rapist son, but he is instead in a mental health facility. so does Ben Arrodondo, but he's sitting on his couch instead. and Henderschott, Black and Fox are all free

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@beiging68 Thank you for a thoughtful and reasoned comment.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@beiging68  its not an easy task, but thats why he should be in a facility that can deal with it. our county jails can not deal with even simple mental health issues let alone regular health issues. Deborah Braillard and Marty Atencio are among many examples of proof of this. not only is a mental heath care facility equipped for this, they are staffed with people trained in it. it does mean they will be successful, but at least people wont be dying unnecessarily. 

beiging68
beiging68

@danzigsdaddy How else do you think we are going to get funding for mental health programs in this country? People not only seldom vote in favor of raising taxes to pay for the care and feeding of those with SMIs, those same people also bitch the loudest whenever someone talks about opening up a halfway house or residential treatment center in their neighborhood.

brianrev
brianrev

@acsparrow any help or advice? I would welcome. The Attny Line did not allow me past their front line. She simply did not understand the complexity to help or refer me. It read as if you may be in the legal system; Jonathan's DDD worker and myself would love to hear more. bturner

AnotherMesaVoter
AnotherMesaVoter

@acsparrow Not only was this a great comment but you also gave him information that might help the situation.  One of the greatest comments I've ever seen on New Times.

bob_lablaw96
bob_lablaw96

@danzigsdaddy And JAF is free, as well.  If anyone needs to be locked up in a mental health facility, he sure does.

beiging68
beiging68

@danzigsdaddy @beiging68 Should be and can be are totally different concepts. In case you haven't noticed, there aren't enough mental health facilities open and available to be able to give that option to everyone that needs it. So companies like Terros and Magellan triage the incoming cases and do they best they can for the ones they can. Unfortunately, the biggest thing that would help is more funding for mental health programs; so those that have money buy their way out of trouble for an infusion of cash into an overtaxed system.

bob_lablaw96
bob_lablaw96

@beiging68 @danzigsdaddy And just wait until they require mental health screenings to be part of the background for buying a firearm.  Who is going to put their name on the letter saying that someone is in such need of mental health treatments that they should not be allowed to possess a firearm?  Can you spell lawsuit in less than 7 letters?

The system as it exists today is set up for failure.  Children, and adults. that are in dire need of help, including forced medication, are routinely ignored and turned away from the system, and the health insurance costs for those people are out of this world.

I have watched this happen to a family that is close to me.  There was nothing I could do for them, other than offer a shoulder to cry on while they wondered if their child would overdose on his meds, or simply take them and become so violent that he would kill them while they slept. 

 Imagine if their child was only a foster child, or in the early stages of adoption.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@beiging68 maybe you are reading me wrong, or maybe i am not wording it right, but, i am trying to say we need to address or mental health care system and need to improve it and both fund and train people better in it. the system is in many cases overburdened, underfunded, abused or ignored. I am a sufferer of PTSD from the service so i have dealt with the system, and what i saw is not encouraging. I also see people like this kid or Marty Atencio who people try to get help for, and the system fails. something I have seen (just a personal observation) that is also damaging the system by overloading it, is people like Jan Brewers son that are getting lesser jail or prison sentences by doing the mental health care route instead. (some people are there rightly, some are just using it for a easier sentence). those who are using the system like that, are destroying it so that the people like this kid or Marty Atencio either slip through the cracks, or the system is too stressed to take them on.

acsparrow
acsparrow

@AnotherMesaVoter @acsparrow Thanks! I've never left a comment in response to any news article, but this one called out to me. This child's formative years were awful, but he has a family who loves him and medication that can restore his emotional balance. There are attorneys out there who want to do something good for society (including me), and judges who care. Would any of us dream of allowing this boy to opt out of life saving medication if he suffered from cancer or a heart condition?  I hope that Brian reads this and calls the Volunteer Lawyers Program at (602) 258-3434. 

beiging68
beiging68

@bob_lablaw96 Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§13-3101 - 02, 13-925 Arizona prohibits possession of a firearm by any person who:

  • Has been found to constitute a danger to himself or herself or others pursuant to court order under section 36-540, and whose right to possess a firearm has not been restored pursuant to section 13-925.

People "put their name" on documents to prevent those with SMIs from having guns all the time. The catch is that for it to happen the mentally ill person has to first be adjudicated in court as being a danger to themselves or others, which means that either their family/spouse has to file a request for such a finding or the mentally ill person has to do something severe enough to end up in court in the first place,

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@acsparrow the world needs more people who care. its good to see your one of them and willing to help

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...