Mental health dilemma: Madison family struggles with red tape

Daniel Drude, 23, is austistic and was diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
Daniel Drude, 23, is austistic and was diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

MADISON, AL (WAFF) - Visits with the Drudes includes looking at pictures through the years of their son, now 23-year-old Daniel Drude.

Daniel is caught up in a bad situation; one where his parents are becoming more and more frustrated.  His dad, Ted, sums it up.

"Daniel has been diagnosed as autistic, mentally retarded - now mentally disabled - since he was about 9 or 10 years old. He was in special ed. in Madison City Schools all the way through, and he needs a lot of help with daily living, and he still needs help with daily living, even though he's 23," said Ted.

Since leaving the structured environment of school, Ted said his son's behavior is worsening and he's aggressively diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

"If I'm around, he will also get physical with me and start hitting me very hard, punching on me, scratching on me. If I leave the house and go get into my car, he'll come out and beat on the car," Ted added.

Daniel is also aggressive with his mother. There are multiple police reports of incidents where Daniel is taken to the emergency room. Sometimes he's kept overnight, but often he's sent home.

The Drudes followed procedure, and Daniel was committed three times in two years. In fact, he was taken to the North Alabama Regional Hospital.

"And he's been over there and then they discharge him and send him home again. The real issue is not the mental illness response. They're doing their best with him. It's the multiple needs that he has," Ted said.

That is where the confusing web of bureaucratic red tape becomes constricting for this Madison family and their son. Cuts to mental health mean fewer facilities and trained professionals who can help.

"And we have applied, there's a Medicaid Waiver process in Alabama for people that are intellectually disabled. And we've been through that process, but the state of Alabama has denied him any assistance through that process," said Ted.

He said the state will not put his son, who has an IQ of 65, on a waiting list.

"They say because he is severely autistic, his actual intelligence is probably higher and he cannot be that low," he said.

Ted said Medicaid draws the line at 70.

The governor's office, in part, described a long term plan moving away from facilities to community based care.

The family was in a Montgomery courtroom Friday, hoping a different route could help them help their son. The judge took all the evidence under advisement.  There is no word yet on a ruling.

The governor's press office responded to the plight of the Drudes with the following written response:

The following can be attributed directly to me, spokesman for Governor Bentley:

Due to privacy laws, I cannot comment on a specific patient who may or may not have received services.  Also, I cannot comment on whether a specific individual qualifies for various programs.  I can, however, speak to the Governor's vision for improved mental health care in Alabama.

Under the direction of Governor Bentley, the Alabama Department of Mental Health is implementing a long-term plan designed to provide modern, community-based care for mental health consumers.  We are also working to ensure that our traditional mental health facilities best meet the needs of the people they serve.  We want to provide the best care possible, and the mental health plan will help us accomplish that goal.

Please make sure you contact the Alabama Department of Mental Health as well.  The department's public information officer can be reached at 334-242-3417.


Jeremy King
Deputy Communications Director
Office of Governor Robert Bentley

Press offices with the state mental health department and Medicaid didn't respond when contacted.

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