The family of a Union City man is looking for their loved one and needs help from the community.
Darric Johnson, a U.S. Navy veteran, was reported missing to the Union City Police Department on July 2. His family last saw him at the end of May when he was evicted from his apartment on Washington Avenue.
Local residents may have seen Johnson before without realizing it. Some people know him as “the black guy often seen on Reelfoot Avenue bouncing a basketball and talking to himself,” says his sister, Lynn Johnson-McBee of Smyrna.
Johnson graduated from the Union City School System. He attended the University of Tennessee at Martin while serving in the Tennessee National Guard based in Union City. He served 11 years in the U.S. Navy on a nuclear submarine and various ships.
She said her brother is “very intelligent, a gifted artist, a terrific cook by trade and a wonderful human being who just happens to suffer from bipolar, depression and schizophrenia disorder, as well as alcoholism.”
Johnson was released by the Navy as a result of unstable behavior; however, he never received treatment. Seven years passed before the Navy named him a disabled veteran of the armed forces, Ms. Johnson-McBee said, adding, “By this time, Darric’s mental health had diminished.”
The Department of Veteran Affairs handles Johnson’s living expenses and medical care and, according to Ms. Johnson-McBee, they have not returned calls asking for assistance or emergency help on his behalf.
“Darric, like others with service and non-service related mental illnesses, cannot differentiate between reality and delusion. Rather than believe that they are ill, they choose to believe the voices in their head and are reluctant to seek or accept help,” his sister said.
“Since Tennessee law does not authorize assisted outpatient treatment, it is difficult for families to force individuals like Darric to seek medical attention although the illness may be obvious, these people often become the homeless ‘crazy’ no-name, no-face individuals wandering our streets, responsible for violent acts or wrongly incarcerated, when they should be in a hospital or on medication.”
She said because of the lack of medical help with his condition, Johnson has been held in the Obion County jail at least five times.
“Unfortunately, Darric is only one of many U.S. veterans to have his life forever altered by mental illness,” she said.
Tennessee is one of six states that does not authorize Assisted Outpatient Treatment, which is court-ordered treatment for individuals who have a history of medication noncompliance.
Studies from states with AOT show it is effective in reducing the incidence and duration of hospitalization, homelessness, arrests and incarcerations, victimization and violent episodes.
Legislation passed in April allows the Tennessee Department for Mental Health to fund a pilot program at the Helen Ross McNabb Center in Knoxville. The program can only serve 10 patients at a time for the next two years.
The legislation went into effect July 1.
Despite the program, families like the Johnsons want more to be done.
“Waiting around for the governor to approve a two year wait-and-see program is not enough,” Ms. Johnson-McBee said.
She asks that residents contact their state representative and ask them to support a law authorizing Assisted Outpatient Treatment for the state of Tennessee.
If anyone sees Johnson or has information about him, they are asked to contact the Union City Police Department at 885-1515.
Published in The Messenger 7.26.12