The police called late Wednesday night. They’d picked up Vanessa Schultz, a missing 17-year-old girl struggling with addiction and mental illness.
“My heart just sank, in a positive way,” said her adoptive father, Kevin Schultz.
Vanessa Schultz had been missing for two months. She and her family were featured in the May 28 edition of The Spokesman Review.
Vanessa is just one of an estimated 21 million Americans suffering from addiction. And although she is safe for the moment, the struggle to find her appropriate and effective treatment has begun all over.
“There is a certain amount of relief for us,” Kevin Schultz said. “But there is a certain amount of stress because we have to go through this again.”
The police found Vanessa walking down an alleyway with a number of individuals whom the cops described as “bad people.” Kevin Schultz met the officer and Vanessa at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center shortly afterward.
Vanessa was in the emergency room while they waited for an emergency mental health evaluation. Her father spent the night with her, leaving at 5:30 a.m. so he could get to work at the private Catholic school where he teaches.
Nineteen hours after she was admitted into the hospital, the mental health professional arrived and evaluated her, Kevin said. He called the long wait and the fact that Vanessa was occupying an emergency room bed in the children’s hospital a “ridiculous situation.”
Now, Vanessa Schultz is in the medical center’s child psychiatric unit – her eighth visit.
“She doesn’t look particularly good, just from the drug use and the lifestyle she’s been leading,” he said.
She’s lost 40 pounds and her cheeks are “sallow,” he said. Over the past three days, she’s been in the process of detoxing.
Most likely Vanessa Schultz will go back to Daybreak Youth Center, an intensive inpatient drug rehab center where she stayed for 62 days earlier this year.
Kevin Schultz said she wants to go back, and she’s told him she wants to get clean. Vanessa Schultz is one of the roughly 40 to 60 percent of addicts who relapse after some sort of addiction treatment.
And while he believes her desire to heal is sincere, he wonders if she’ll have the resolve necessary to see it through.
“I can trust that at that moment, that’s what she’s thinking,” he said. “But she has no ability to follow through.”
He added later, “I want it to be true so badly.”
The path forward for the Schultz family is far from clear.
Although she may be re-admitted to Daybreak Youth Center, what will happen when Vanessa turns 18 in August isn’t obvious. She is covered by Medicaid because she was adopted. She’s also covered by Kevin and Rochelle’s private insurance. Staying at Daybreak costs $380 per day.
However, when Vanessa turns 18, Medicaid will no longer cover her, although Rochelle Schultz plans to apply for an extension.
Over the past few days Vanessa has repeatedly asked her parents to let her stay at home. Rochelle and Kevin both think that’s a bad idea.
“I want to get her somewhere where she is safe and she can work toward trying to get herself so she can function, because obviously it’s not here,” Rochelle said.
Last time Vanessa was home in early May, she ran away after only a few hours.
Sitting in their Spokane Valley home Friday evening, Kevin and Rochelle wondered out loud at the complicated and convoluted process required to get appropriate treatment for addiction and mental illness. With numerous independent agencies all providing similar services, it can be confusing to know to whom to talk. Both Kevin and Rochelle said they wished there was one centralized organization that could provide them with direction.
“It’s a national crisis,” Rochelle Schultz said. “There are (many) people who are having mental health problems. Let’s figure this out.”
In her time away from home Vanessa got a new tattoo. Inscribed on her wrist now are the words “beautiful chaos.”
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