OPINION by T. KEITH GURNEE
It was heartening to read of the Holland family’s resolve to use a significant portion of the $5 million legal settlement from the County to raise our consciousness about mental illness while grieving over the loss of their son. Their commitment to starting a foundation named for Andrew Holland to treat rather than “jail” mental illness was entirely appropriate, as were their comments that they were not out for a “vendetta.”
My son played youth baseball with “Drew” Holland in his early teens. Back then, Drew was good athlete who showed no outward signs of the schizophrenia that would afflict him in his 20s. We couldn’t believe the circumstances of his untimely death in county jail.
While the county seems to be making a serious effort to prevent this from ever happening again, those changes can’t happen soon enough. With a new CAO and the new county health director, one can only hope that they can fix the woeful communications between the sheriff’s office, the SLO County jail, and the county’s mental health services. But it goes beyond that. Understanding the inexplicable is the challenge that awaits us.
There’s no better tribute to Andrew Holland than having his name associated with an effort to increase our understanding of mental illness, finding better ways to treat it, helping families who face it to better cope with it, and forever ending the practice of using our jails as dumping grounds for those who need treatment.
At the same time, there is no greater insult to him than allowing the Progressives to exploit the tragedy of his death by creating political theater for their own narrow political purposes.
As a great local family that has been here for decades, hopefully the Hollands will move beyond being used by the Progressives to focus upon realizing the systemic changes so sorely needed in our mental health system. Accomplishing the noble mission of their emerging and much-needed foundation is far more important than those who would take political credit for it.
That’s what should be Andrew Holland’s legacy.