The Lethbridge Herald
Special 7, Saturday, March 20, 2004, p. c1

Paying for drugs beats paying a higher price

Gallant, Sherri


Lethbridge Herald

A well-known former Lethbridge man who has schizophrenia says compulsory
treatment orders for people with mental illness are not the right choice to
protect the public.

"Whether you have those orders or not, you need to have more investment in
the community," says Austin Mardon, a geographer and author now living in
Edmonton. "They just won't work."

News reports on the Feb. 28 death of Spruce Grove RCMP officer Jim Galloway
say he was shot by Martin Ostopovich, a schizophrenic who wasn't taking
medication because he couldn't afford it. Ostopovich was shot dead by RCMP

"That fellow in Spruce Grove, that's not a problem that a compulsory order
would treat," Mardon says. "It's a problem with the mental health support
system. If his medication was paid for, perhaps he could have been
stabilized in the community, and while the drugs are expensive, there would
have been savings to the criminal justice system."

Mardon was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1992 at age 30 when a psychotic
episode landed him in an Edmonton emergency ward. Before that, he was an
Antarctic explorer; a geographer with numerous awards and publications to
his credit.

Since then, there's little of his life that resembles what it was. Mardon
takes medication with debilitating side effects, even though it's considered
more tolerable than earlier anti-psychotics.

Mardon gained 120 pounds on Zyprexa. Doctors encourage physical activity,
but he's too tired most days to consider it.

"I must sleep at least 10 to 12 hours a night because of the effects of the
medication and the illness, and that's a handicap as far as working a
full-time job with overtime hours.

"My stress threshold is less than it used to be, and I can't concentrate
enough to sustain full-time work, only part-time work."

When Mardon shares what it's like to have schizophrenia, it's a rare
opportunity to see inside a brain gone awry.

His openness about the disease and the side-effects of medication - his
frank disclosure about the stigma, the loneliness and economic devastation -
is refreshing. He talks and writes and does what he can to raise awareness,
working for the Alberta Mental Health Self-Help Network.

The memory of Austin's psychotic episode returns when something like the
Ostopovich incident brings the ugly side of mental illness to the public

"I'm a great believer in Tasers," Mardon says. "You can shoot them from 20
feet away. I believe Tasers should be standard equipment in every police
cruiser, because they provide an extra step between pepper spray and

While the Ostopovich case would not have lent itself to Tasers, a provincial
drug program might have prevented the crisis, Mardon feels.

"People think it's going to be expensive, but it's a matter of it coming
from one department and saving other departments money. When you're talking
about two pills costing $800 a month it seems like a lot."

For more information on the Self Help Network, visit

Category: News
Uniform subject(s): Diseases, therapy and prevention; Laws and regulations
Length: Medium, 414 words

Doc. : news·20040320·LH·015032004_1Mardon_1schizphre

Austin Mardon, CM
Telephone: 1-780-378-0063
Post Office Box 1223, Main Post Office,
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA,
T5J 2M4
Web site: