American Morning

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March 9th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Saving Carlos: The face of California's crisis

Editor’s Note: Yesterday on American Morning, we introduced you to Carlos. He's 8, uninsured, and struggling with ADHD and severe anxiety. Now, deep budget cuts in California could put his future in jeopardy. Is it fair to put a price on something like that? Today, CNN's Thelma Gutierrez takes a look at the debate for original series we're calling "Saving Carlos."

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Carlos’ therapist says taxpayers will pay the price for Carlos either now while he's is in treatment or later on if he doesn't get help."]

By Thelma Gutierrez, CNN

(CNN) – Carlos lives in south Los Angeles. His mother is a homemaker. His father is a street vendor.

Carlos says he wants us to understand his world. Although he is only a 2nd-grader, what struck me most over the month we spent with him is that already he says he wants a new life.

Carlos suffers from ADHD and severe anxiety, made worse by problems at home.

“I draw a picture about my family because they were fighting,” says Carlos. “Sometime when they fight, it's because when my dad drinks.”

Carlos' father didn't want to be on camera, but acknowledged he has had a hard time lately and financial pressures have only made things worse at home.

Carlos' mother, Leticia, wants to keep the family together, but knows they need help. Their son was failing in school and becoming disruptive at home.

The face of California's crisis Video

When Leticia went looking for help, what she found were clinics grossly overburdened. In Los Angeles County alone, $216 million was slashed from its mental health department. Now county clinics are only taking kids who are suicidal or physically violent, not kids like Carlos, whose condition might not be as urgent, but is still just as serious.


Filed under: Education cuts • Saving Carlos
March 8th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Saving Carlos: Budget cuts leave 2nd-grader behind

Editor’s Note: Carlos is a little boy who suffers from ADHD and severe anxiety. His family doesn't have insurance and relies on the public mental health system. But now a broke state may be taking out a mortgage on his future. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has his story for the American Morning original series we're calling "Saving Carlos." Tomorrow, we find out how just how much Carlos' therapy costs taxpayers and whether he'll be able to keep on going.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="8-year-old Carlos is at the mercy of California lawmakers who control the state's budget and, in some way, his future."]

By Thelma Gutierrez, CNN

(CNN) – South Los Angeles is a community of working class families, hit hard by the economy. This is where I met Carlos more than a month ago.

He is a young boy who is at the mercy of California lawmakers. They control the state's budget and, in some way, his future.

Carlos needs help. He's only in the 2nd grade already and he’s falling through the cracks.

Carlos lives with his sister and parents. They're unemployed, uninsured and barely scraping by. Among Carlos' many challenges in life, he also suffers from severe anxiety and ADHD.

He meets regularly with Elena Fernandez, director of behavioral health, at St. John's Community Clinic in South Los Angeles. She's trying to unlock the causes of his angst.

Kids slipping through cracks Video

Elena uses art therapy to help Carlos express things that are going in his life. Carlos' mother says she believes it is critical for people to understand how important these services are to children like her son.

During therapy, Carlos draws a picture of his “family fights.”

“This is my mom, this is my dad. Sometimes he fights with me,” he says. “…sometimes I cry.”

Carlos tells Elena his dad used to drink and that led to fighting between his mom and dad. He says at home, there was no escape. That was six months ago. Carlos' life was in shambles.


Filed under: Education cuts • Health • Saving Carlos