|Supervisor Keith Carson|
ALAMEDA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | No other elected official in the East Bay comports himself in the manner of a statesman than Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. He is pensive listener who typically responds with measured, sometimes lengthy silloloquys. Yet, during an uncommonly passionate Board of Supervisors meeting Tueday, Carson’s personal struggles with a mentally ill member of his immediate family was the launching pad for one of the most surprising and visceral moments ever seen during a local government meeting.
Ironically, Carson’s passionate outburst may have been triggered by the board’s most infamous bad boy, Supervisor Nate Miley. With typical bravado, Miley told the audience he was ready to vote on a long-discussed plan to create a five-patient pilot program for court-ordered treatment of the chronically mentally ill in Alameda County. In his view, there was little need to support Carson’s motion to send the plan back to the drawing board for another three months. The issue had been fully discussed and vetted, Miley argued. “The house is divided. So, as an elected official, I have to make the call. And my job is to balance equities and do what I think is in the best interest of society, our community, of all of us and not just one side or the other.”
“By not moving ahead with this pilot program, we are saying, we are afraid to consider this as a model.” The pilot program can be tweaked later or dumped, he added. “We take lessons learned.”
“The consequence of not doing stuff is that we continue to delay and as we continue to delay other people might continue to suffer as a result of that.” Miley, though, unlike Carson and Superivsor Wilma Chan, who described various experiences with mentally ill family members, said he had no such personal experience.
“I respect some people come to conclusions quicker than others,” said Carson in initially calm tones before he referenced an immediate family diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and witnessing the chaos that results from a call to law enforcement.
“I have personally seen that person restrained. I have personally seen that person force-fed medication. I personally continue to live with that person’s disability and so this is not something I have read about, this is something I’ve fucking experienced every fucking day. So I understand the pain a lot of people are going through on both sides because I’ve lived it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve seen it. Trying to figure out how to make a family member to take their medicine. How to get them back into society. How to get them outside of their house. That’s not something I read about. That’s something I experienced. It’s not six months, it’s 35 fucking years.
“I asked if we could have three additional months to bring all the key stakeholders to the table to see if anything else can be fleshed out. That was for more than just the people in this room. That’s for all the other people who don’t have the advocacy. They don’t have the people that can help them. To see if we can put forth an even better measure.”