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'There's nothing they can do': Hillsboro family searching for missing teen says they can't get him help he needs

The 15-year-old's parents say they've tried every option to get him help for addiction and mental health struggles, but they're out of options.

HILLSBORO, Ore — Editor's note: KGW has chosen to omit the family's surname from this story to protect their privacy.

Across Hillsboro and Beaverton, a desperate father has been pounding the pavement looking for his 15-year-old son, who recently ran away from home. David hopes to post enough fliers around Hillsboro and Beaverton that someone finds and recognizes his son so they can bring Andrew home. 

David said Andrew has been in trouble before and has mental health challenges. That's why the teen, who police consider a runaway, has him so worried.

“He’s got bipolar, ADHD, depression, and he’s on meds for all those but right now he doesn’t have any meds. He’s been off meds for five days," he said. "Probably self-medicating on drugs on the streets. Probably stealing to get drugs. We’re just really concerned for him and trying to find a way to help him get his life turned around.”

According to Hillsboro Police, Andrew's name and information are in the database for the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children, and if he is spotted by law enforcement he will be taken into protective custody. 

As of Friday, Andrew had been gone for five days. 

His son's mental health problems ramped up over the last year, David said, and while it's always been relatively easy for teens to find drugs, David believes Measure 110 made it easier. The law, which passed in 2020, decriminalized possession of small amounts, or "user amounts," of drugs for adults

"We say that the drugs are illegal, and he says no, it's been decriminalized, there’s no problem. We say just because its decriminalized doesn’t mean its not illegal," David said. "He says, well what are they gonna do about it? We ask the police, what are you gonna do about it? And they say there’s nothing they can do. Their hands are tied. There’s absolutely nothing they can do. Even though he’s 15. They say it doesn’t matter — for juveniles, for adults — its been decriminalized for all.”

Hillsboro Police said juveniles found with user amounts of drugs would be taken into protective custody, then turned over to juvenile authorities, who would decide what to do next. 

The other promise of Measure 110 was more money for mental health and addiction treatment programs. That has not happened yet. David said his son is sometimes violent, and because of that it's been difficult to get him help. 

RELATED: Measure 110 advocates worry bills would shift recovery funds to police

"We’ve had the juvenile department looking for a placement for him. We’ve contacted DHS, they said there’s nothing they can do. They don’t do voluntary placement anymore. We’ve been working with Catholic Community Services. They’ve exhausted all the resources they can exhaust, trying to get him help. They say because of the combination of suicidal and bipolar and depression and anxiety and drugs and alcohol and everything, there’s no place that will take him with the whole cornucopia of things," David explained. "The judge has told him he has to come back home. He’s violent at home and so then they take him to juvenile detention and then after a month they say 'we can't keep him, he hasn’t committed a felony.'”

Searching for a missing child is a special sort of hell for any parent, with ups and downs that leave emotions frayed. During Friday's interview, David's wife called to let him know Andrew had called home. 

"I guess he saw some of the posters we’ve been putting up, and he wanted us to know he’s alive and he’s okay but he said he’s not coming home. Police said if he’s fine and he doesn’t want to come home there’s nothing that they’ll do. He’s not fine," David said, breaking down in tears. "He’s suicidal. He’s not fine. We've got to just keep trying to find him.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please know that help is available 24/7 at the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

There is also a YouthLine available for teens in crisis, offered through Lines for Life. Trained teens respond from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and adults are available 24/7. Call 1-877-968-8491 or text teen2teen to 839863.

RELATED: Oregon's pioneering drug decriminalization law draws mixed results

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