“Responsibility. Down the line. From organisations to individuals. This is not a comprehensive review of all the factors, I don’t know all the details of the case, I never will, but I do know this: There are always ways that services could have done better, there are always signs that things are starting to go wrong, and there is ALWAYS another option than taking the life of your child.”
I appreciated the opportunity to speak to the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) in Lincoln County Oregon. I started my talk about mental health emergency response and first aid by remembering the painful tragedy of little London McCabe, (click on highlighted text for previous post) who’s mother tossed her sweet little boy over the Yaquina Bridge in November of 2014. I also related my own story of growing up in a toxic home during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, when at age 10 in 1956, I observed my older brother, age 15 at the time, getting punched with great force in his head by my father and knocked out…head swelling up like a football later. It was a miracle that my dear brother was not killed! My brother was not taken to the hospital at the time for fear my father’s US Navy career would be at risk, including his decorated WWII and Korean War service to America. Of all the toxic, scary and painful childhood experiences in our troubled home, this is the one that triggers great sadness in my heart almost everyday of my life…
During my interaction with the very caring and passionate public service leaders in the meeting, I spoke of the need for a thorough “lessons learned” public investigation of the death of London McCabe. It is not clear to me that we have started or completed such an investigation in a public venue with extensive awareness and actions that would lead us to mitigate the risk of a repeated tragedy in the future. I am confident that everyone in Lincoln County and Newport, Oregon public service connected with police and mental health have done their individual investigations and have taken steps to improve emergency response and first aid to those who suffer from severe mental health challenges. I listened to several officials in the meeting who discussed, with passion and emotion, the process of building a far more effective layer of emergency response that must be an alternative to calling “911” as the often too little, too late last resort.
As a City Councilor from Depoe Bay, Oregon representing the caring citizens of our town, I walked away encouraged. But it is clear that we are not able to move as fast as everyone would prefer. Our community is not unlike many rural areas in America in that we are often caught in a world of “silos” working feverishly in multiple departments of public safety and health, but not as a community force and together as a team, with the power to change up quickly to solve critical problems.
It is my goal going forward to continue being engaged with public safety and mental health resources to tackle the challenges of mental health first aid and emergency response as a whole community. I also believe it would be profoundly healing and constructive to go back to the London McCabe tragedy to ensure that we have full comprehension of the lessons learned and community agreement on a faster and better path forward.
Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.