As the temperature rose late Wednesday afternoon, several police officers and a crew of emergency medical technicians arrived at Ninth and G streets.
They loaded Ramon Alvarez into an ambulance for a trip to the hospital.
Whether long overdue, just in the nick of time or strictly precautionary, the move enables behavioral health experts to assess whether his mental state is killing him physically on the sidewalks of downtown Modesto.
My column Sunday detailed the plight of the 61-year-old Modesto man who, in 2006, began staking out various corners in downtown Modesto to protest perceived injustices he alleges on signs plastered all over his minivan. Among them, he claims a judge raped his 10-year-old daughter and that a sheriff's deputy gave his son drugs.
He recently went on a hunger strike. By his gaunt appearance and obvious weight loss, it certainly appears he isn't getting much nourishment. He refuses to talk, scribbling his curt answers on a notepad.
He's got serious mental issues, though the police just last week contended he didn't yet rise — or fall, depending upon your perspective — to the level that merited a trip to the Behavioral Health Center for a 72-hour evaluation.
His condition obviously changed by Wednesday afternoon, when officers went to check on him and called for the ambulance — something Alvarez's family has wanted for some time, a family member said. The concerns for Alvarez's health were legitimate, with temperatures reaching 90 on Wednesday and expected to climb near 100 later in the week. He stays in the direct sun or holes up inside the shaded but Dutch-oven-like minivan.
Alvarez has rejected repeated offers of help, the family member told me. And family pleas to police and mental health officials until Wednesday all elicited the same answer — that Alvarez's condition didn't merit the 5150 detainment.
The paradox: Without the physical exam, he wouldn't get the 72-hour hold and psychological evaluation that could lead to a 14-day stay or possibly conservatorship. The latter would, in effect, make him a ward of the local government or place him under control of a relative. It can be a complex and costly process.
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JARDINE: Unwell Protester Gets Long Awaited Intervention