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Colorado family says criminal justice system is best option for daughter struggling with mental health crisis

Colorado mother provides update on loved one after being admitted into mental institution
Colorado mother provides update on loved one after being admitted into mental institution 03:52

Kendra Anderson recently spoke to her daughter Olivia on the phone at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.

"Is this my mom?" asks Olivia.

"Yes, yes, it's your mom," says Kendra.

Olivia Schack is being held at the facility as she awaits trial. Accused of assault on members of her family, the forgiveness there is deep. Those charges are relatively minor. But the accusation of assault on a deputy at the Jefferson County Jail is another matter. At under 100 pounds, 23 year old Olivia faces a felony charge for that attack. The charge may be the one thing that helps her the most as her mental condition has declined over the past few years.

Olivia Schack   CBS

 "She's been in and out of emergency rooms, hospital visits, mental health places. I can't even tell you how many times," says her mother.

Through her life, Olivia was different, her mother recalls, but in her late teens, Olivia began to show the signs of the schizoaffective disorder, bi-polar disorder and depression that came to change her life. She began hearing voices that plagued her life. As she became an adult, she would leave home and disappear, spending time on the streets. There were strange people she would bring home. She would be combative and physically attack family members, then leave again, disappearing for weeks at a time. The family tried facilities to treat her and she was asked to leave because she was too hard to handle. Back to the streets she went, the family worrying and wondering. To get her help, explained counselors to her family, the best route would be to push her deeper into the criminal justice system.

"We've had to make her a criminal to get her this help," explained Kendra.

Each time Olivia would get physical with family, they would call police. Charges added up. But they were misdemeanors. But she failed to understand the requirements of the courts, her family said, and soon there was a more serious charge for failing to comply with court orders.

In late 2022 she was in jail in Jefferson County when she attacked the deputy. The assault charge is a more serious felony. But there has been no trial. Only court appearances and an order for a mental health hold to see when she could get into the facility at Pueblo as a shortage of beds meant there was no place for her. It went on month after month until May of 2023. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office could offer some help, giving her medication that was of some benefit, but nothing like what would be available in Pueblo.


 There she has a room, gets counseling and medical help and has had her medications prescribed to stop the voices.

"So they go away to a degree when she's on medications, but when they try to take her off of these medications or maybe like give her one or two, as opposed to six, the voices just come right back," said Kendra.

She does not believe Olivia can survive on her own. Olivia, she believes, needs someone to give her the medications four times a day that she would not otherwise take. It keeps her daughter off the streets, where she's been assaulted.

"I feel safe here," said Olivia during the phone conversation.

But the law requires that she be readied for trial. Twice since her arrival at Pueblo her competency for trial has been examined. The evaluations come every 90 days. Both times she has failed them. There are likely to be two more. After a fourth evaluation, assuming she fails them, her family has been told she will likely be declared incompetent.

That is the next worry. Her mother does not know where she'll go if there is no court order to hold her in Pueblo. It is a place where she is getting needed treatment and supervision.

Your Reporter: Behind the Story with Alan Gionet 07:51

"You get fed three times a day, you have these pills you take and it's not a quality of life, but it's the best quality for her," she said. "I think they are really doing a lot to help her."

The question for a family that has tried to protect her, is where will she go?

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