Kayden Ford in better days getting ready to go to work. [Submitted photo]

Legal guardianship: an alternative

Frustrated by the difficulties of Oregon's civil commitment process, some families are bypassing the process altogether.

They are becoming legal guardians of their adult children so they can force them into mental health treatment.

The Bezuhly family took the guardianship alternative after a bloody incident with a knife.

Earlier this year, Sherry Bezuhly, who lives in Idaho, drove to Medford to deal with her adult schizophrenic son's deteriorating mental state. At one point, she had to call police and press harassment charges against him in hopes he would be detained and get a mental health evaluation.

During an evaluation in jail, Kayden Ford told everyone he was fine. He was released from jail that night and walked back to his Medford home, where his mom tried to calm him down with chamomile tea. Suspicious, he refused to drink the tea until she traded cups with him.

The next night, Bezuhly was trying to sleep in preparation for driving her son back to Idaho, which has easier civil commitment standards. Awakened by her phone, she found her son was still awake.

Ford had been cutting at his arm with a steak knife. She grabbed paper towels to try and soak up the blood.

"He pushed past me heading for the garage and saying, 'I gotta get it out! I gotta get it out!'" Bezuhly recalls.

She was only seconds behind him, but couldn't stop what happened next.

"He had taken another chunk out of his arm with no hesitation whatsoever," she says.

Bezuhly persuaded him to stop by saying she would take him to the hospital, where doctors would help him get "it" out. Later, when he was having his bandage changed at the hospital, he tried to get a pair of tweezers so he could keep digging at his arm.

Bezuhly hates to think what would have happened if she hadn't been there to stop her son from cutting his arm, especially since there was nothing inside for him to remove.

"When would it have stopped? How far would he have gone?" she wonders.

Ford was transferred from Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center to the Cedar Hills Hospital in Portland. While there, he tried to sign himself out, even though he would have been released with no clothes, shoes, money, phone or transportation hundreds of miles from home, Bezuhly says.

Feeling like they were getting nowhere trying to have Ford committed to a mental institution for long-term treatment, Bezuhly and her husband — Ford's stepfather — went to court and won approval to become Ford's legal guardians.

Legal guardians can force people to be hospitalized and take medications against their will, says Laurel Nickels, RRMC behavioral health services clinical manager.

"If a case doesn't meet civil commitment standards, we encourage families to think about guardianship," Nickels says.

Ford had a rough start during the two months he spent as a psychiatric patient in the Portland hospital. Staff members were not able to stabilize him on medication. He had more than 10 assaults and altercations with other patients and staff, with some of those incidents resulting in injuries and police involvement, Bezuhly says.

In mid-October, he was transferred to the Oregon State Hospital's Junction City campus, where he can receive a higher level of care.

Bezuhly says he has made progress since being moved to the state-level hospital. She talks to him nearly every day on the phone. He has become more engaged in their conversations.

"He has a long road ahead of him still — but there is starting to be hope," Bezuhly says.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or Follow her at

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