There was literally and figuratively no safety net when Scotty, 48, jumped from a 12-story building in Knoxville and ended his troubled life.
Scotty leaves behind a sister and two dedicated parents who did everything in their power to help him find the support he needed to carry on his struggle with mental illness.
In spite of a diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia at age 15, Scotty graduated from George Williams College with a degree in Psychology. He was a talented chess player, playing at the grand master level and winning a state Junior Chess Championship at the age of 17. As a lifeguard he once swam to the bottom of the pool he was guarding and brought out a child who was drowning. Scotty gave the child emergency first aid and saved his life.
Scotty struggled with mental illness throughout his life. After a hospital stay, he was admitted to a program in Knoxville called Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT). The PACT program helped Scotty live independently in Knoxville. A team of mental health specialists provided necessary services, including medication, psychiatric therapy and case management. A mobile crisis unit was on hand to help with mental health emergencies. It was a time of real hope for stability, but it was not to last.
Scotty’s participation in the PACT program depended on his enrollment in TennCare (Medicaid). When the Tennessee Governor made sweeping cuts to TennCare, Scotty was one of many who lost coverage. Cut adrift from supportive programming, his mental health spiraled out of control. He attempted suicide twice in the space of a week, and the second attempt succeeded.
Ten years after their son’s death, Scotty’s parents wonder what it will take to get the attention of Tennessee’s Governor and State Legislature. The policies that removed Scotty from coverage persist to this day. To honor Scotty’s memory, his parents volunteer with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). They hope to offer support to other families struggling with the lack of services for the mentally ill in Tennessee, and to erase the stigma against those needing care. Scotty’s parents hope their volunteer advocacy can improve policies in Tennessee to prevent the next tragedy.
Story by Bob Hoyt.