By Marvin Ross
Webster’s refers to Kafkaesque as something “having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality” and that perfectly describes what Andrew’s parents are going through trying to get him the psychiatric help that he needs. But first, let me recap who he is and his plight. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with a number of posts and guest posts that have been written about him here.
Andrew is a 39 year old former bank official from Charlottetown, PEI whose dreams were described to me by his mother. “They were dreams of a university education, career, wife and children, and a nice home on P.E.I. He had all of that but it was stolen by a serious mental illness. His life involved family, church, bowling and baseball friends, colleagues at work and countless others who knew and admired Andrew. Andrew was patient, kind and compassionate.”
As a result of a psychotic break, Andrew was treated by a local psychiatrist but decided not to continue taking the medication that helped with his symptoms, stopped and took off to live on the streets of Toronto. He became a homeless person with no place to sleep other than the street or parks, no money, nothing, living off the kindness of others for sustenance. He was one of thousands of homeless people wandering the streets of most of our towns and cities many of whom have untreated mental illnesses.
Through the marvel of social media, Andrew’s parents were able to get people in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area to report on his whereabouts and to give him food, liquids, money and clothing some of which he accepted and some of which he refused. After considerable effort, his mother managed to obtain a Form Two order from a Justice of the Peace to have him taken to hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. As a result of the first one, Andrew was taken to hospital by the police and kept for 72 hours. At that point, doctors could hold him for a further period of time for treatment if he posed a danger to self or others. They decided to release him back to the streets
Marlene, his mother made two further attempts to get a Form Two which were successful and again, he was taken to hospital. Given that, at one point, he was walking the wrong way on an expressway in the rain and at other times he had almost been hit by cars and he was observed deep in conversation with himself on the street, that he was a danger seemed self evident. Not to the doctors. The second hospital turfed him out at 72 hours and the third after a couple of hours in the ER at 2 in the morning.
That third hospital was the much lauded Centre for Addiction and Mental Health which claims it is the largest psychiatric facility in Canada. They are very proud of the work they do in research and teaching.
If I may pause this narrative for a moment, let’s assume that Andrew is not 39 with psychosis but 69 with Alzheimer’s. Would any hospital anywhere in the civilized world decide to toss him out to live on the streets with no money? I truly doubt it but both are diseases of the brain as I’ve written earlier.
In desperation, Andrew’s parents flew to Toronto and managed to acquire a 4th Form 2. With the help of their many helpful citizens, Andrew was located in front of a Tim Horton’s. Marlene’s host in Toronto approached Andrew and offered to buy him a coke and Andrew agreed. In Marlene’s words “then the two police cars arrived. They were very respectful of Andrew and told him that he had to go to the hospital because a Justice of the Peace had signed a Form 2. They even permitted him to finish drinking the Coke. Andrew got in the police car without incident and went to the hospital.”
It was hoped that within the 72 hour observation period, the Ontario government would start the process to have Andrew transferred to PEI as that government would pay. This is allowed under S 31 of the Mental Health Act. That section states:
Where it appears to the Minister,
(a) that a patient in a psychiatric facility has come or been brought into Ontario from elsewhere and his or her hospitalization is the responsibility of another jurisdiction; or
(b) that it would be in the best interests of a patient in a psychiatric facility to be hospitalized in another jurisdiction, the Minister may, upon compliance in Ontario with necessary modifications with the laws respecting hospitalization in such other jurisdiction, by warrant in the approved form authorize his or her transfer thereto. R.S.O. 1990, c. M.7, s. 31; 2000, c. 9, s. 12.
Unfortunately, Ontario dropped the ball and this did not happen. Doug Ford, as I’ve said in earlier posts, passed the buck to his Minister of Health and during this crucial time, both she and her associate Minister for Mental Health were at a conference in (ironically enough) PEI.
No transfer but at least the psychiatrists at this hospital have completed a Form 3 which enables Andrew to be held for an additional two weeks less a day. As Andrew is not in agreement with being in hospital, the final decision must be made by the Consent and Capacity Board at a hearing. No treatment is allowed without his consent other than to save his life until the board makes a determination.
Just to get to this point, the Bryenton family needed the help of scores of local citizens who went out of their way to help. As Marlene posted on facebook:
Lloyd and I thank every kind soul who reached out and helped Andrew since January 2023. You gave him food, water, money and clothing. We received hundreds and hundreds of posts, and photos with date, time and location. You helped our son survive on the streets of Toronto. You helped give us peace of mind each and every day for the past 11 heartbreaking months.
We thank people that searched for Andrew and helped me in so many ways. We worked as a well greased machine. We were ANDREW’S ARMY OF ANGELS! How can we ever repay the people of Ontario for your kindness and love shown to our son, Andrew Bryenton?
Marlene did begin a petition to have Andrew returned to PEI and says We presently have 8695 signatures. Let’s rally together and show that Ontario and Prince Edward Island residents believe that Andrew deserves a fresh start in life. Here is the link to sign: https://chng.it/TMKMZfHH2p
For the skeptics who think people with mental illness make a valid choice to be homeless and live on the street, here is a youtube video of Andrew when sane https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=F3GVRyhd4iE
Contrast that to the picture of him sleeping on St Clair Ave W in Toronto or in front of Tim Horton’s when being taken into custody for transport to the hospital by police.