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Times-Standard: Local Man’s Incarceration A Result of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues; Mother Advocates for Conservatorship


Sep 9, 2023

Andrew Lancaster, a resident of Humboldt County, had a difficult journey due to his untreated schizophrenia. He ended up on the streets and eventually in the county jail, according to his mother, Marianne Lancaster. Marianne, who lives in Murrieta at the age of 69, is now working to help her 32-year-old son by placing him under a county conservatorship. She believes that he is unable to care for himself. Andrew is currently facing a felony burglary charge and misdemeanor in the county jail. Marianne expressed her concern that Andrew’s delusions, specifically his belief that cars will not harm him, could result in a fatal accident. Andrew has accumulated seven misdemeanors for jaywalking.
Marianne has reached out to various agencies in Humboldt County, including the Humboldt County Public Guardian’s Office, in search of assistance to place her son in a mandatory treatment program. In an interview conducted at the county jail, Andrew expressed his willingness to accept involuntary treatment. He currently takes medication to manage the symptoms of his schizophrenia, which he had stopped doing while outside of the jail. Andrew’s attorney, Conflict Counsel Megan O’Connell, recently filed for a mental health diversion in his case, which would involve mandatory treatment instead of prison time.
One issue Andrew faces is the lack of housing if he were to be released. Although he receives social security income while in jail, the funds are managed by the county public guardian’s office. If he cannot secure housing, he may end up in one of the local shelters. Andrew has experienced a decade of homelessness and has faced challenges such as being kicked out of a group home and dropping out of university due to a panic attack. Marianne worries that without supervision, he will revert to his previous habits.
Marianne hopes that Andrew will be placed in a facility like Crestwood Behavioral Health Center or even be relocated to ensure he continues to receive treatment and stabilize. Unfortunately, the Lancaster family is not alone in dealing with the reality of county jails becoming the default facilities for individuals in psychiatric crises. Lea Nagy, the president of Humboldt County’s National Alliance on Mental Health chapter, is in a similar situation with her grandson.
While Humboldt County has implemented Laura’s Law, which allows counties to compel individuals into mental health treatment, resources are often insufficient. Nagy emphasizes the importance of family support and encourages community members to provide housing if they are able to. Despite the challenges, Nagy acknowledges the efforts made by local governments and nonprofits to assist individuals during difficult times.
Andrew’s mental health diversion hearing is scheduled for Monday.

By Editor

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