How SA man’s disappearance may point to struggles other families are facing

Max Mendiola has required special assistance his whole life. His family is making the heartbreaking decision to place him in a mental facility — when he’s found.

SAN ANTONIO — The search continues for a man with severe disabilities.

39-year-old Max Mendiola has required special assistance his whole life.

Now, his family is making the heartbreaking decision to place him in a mental facility.

The problem is they can’t find him.

Mendiola’s family said this is his third time he’s disappeared. He spent a few years in jail when his family believes he should have received mental help instead.

Their fight to get him help, they say, is complicated.

KENS 5 learned how this missing persons case points to a bigger struggle others may be facing, too.

“He was throwing out the trash. I just got out of work…he just never came back,” said JD Rodriguez, Max Mendiola’s older sister. “I know he got lost.”

Sunday night was the last time Rodriguez saw her little brother.

Rodriguez said she’s been through this before.

She said her brother disappeared in 2022, and showed up at home a month later.

“I don’t know how that happened, but he was really bad,” Rodriguez explained. “I did call the police. The ambulance [staff] told me that they could not take him to the hospital because he said no.”

In December, Mendiola took off again.

Three days later, Rodriguez got a call.

“It was the deputy in Wilson County. So, I drove 40 minutes to go over there,” she recalled. “They saw him on the side of actually the freeway over there.”

Rodriguez said when Wilson County deputies questioned her brother, he could only give them his name.

“He could only give him the name, his first name, last name,” she said. “That’s how they were able to track it, because I filed the missing persons [report].”

She exchanged text messages with deputies to ensure her brother was found. A picture of Mendiola came through, showing him sitting in the back of a patrol car.

“As a child, it was ADHD, bipolar, intellectual disability [that he had]. Now, as a grown up, it’s led to more of PTSD, schizophrenia,” Rodriguez explained. “it’s not drugs because he does not steal anything.”

She said it’s hard for her brother to survive alone.

He can’t cook, he can’t use a cell phone, he doesn’t know how to use money. 

He needs his medication, she said.

“He doesn’t have friends. He doesn’t talk to anybody. He’s antisocial. I know that he doesn’t want to be touched or loud music,” said Rodriguez. “By looking at him, you can tell he needs help.”

Rodriguez decided to get her brother a mental health warrant to commit him to a facility. Rodriguez has power of attorney. The problem is only Mendiola’s mother, his legal guardian, can take him.

But she physically can’t.

“My mom can’t use her voice to speak on his behalf. If I’m his sister, I’m his parent. I’ll take care of him. I’ll try.”

Now, JD must go to the county clerk’s mental health office to start applying for an emergency health warrant.

“Get it notarized, then after it’s notarized, drop it off at the court, and then they’ll decide when to actually turn it into the district attorney’s office so that process can start,” she explained. “Then they’ll let me know with a call if it got approved or denied.”

It’s a process that could take months.

It’s time she doesn’t believe her brother, when found, can afford.

“I want to know who’s out there going through what I’m going through. I know I’m not the only one,” she said. “They’re not going to use their voice to say, ‘I need help.'”

If you see Max Mendiola, call the San Antonio Police Department at (210) 207-7660. Law enforcement officials believe his diasppearance poses a credible threat to his own health and safety.

If you have a loved one who you believe needs to be committed to a mental health facility there are different steps for legal guardians and loved ones.

According to Bexar County’s Mental Health Department, below are the steps the public can take for obtaining a mental health warrant. You can find more information online here.

If you believe your loved one is acutely mentally ill

If you believe that someone is, at present, likely to cause harm to themselves or others due to their mental illness, you may come into the Bexar County Clerk Mental Health Office located at 300 Dolorosa, 78205 in the basement across from the Central Jury Room to complete an Application for Emergency Apprehension and Detention.

The applicant must be 18 years of age or older, must have first-hand knowledge of the person’s behavior and state that they have reason to believe that, because of recent behavior and disturbing acts, the ward shows evidence of mental illness and is an imminent danger to themselves or others. The applicant must be willing to sign a notarized statement about the behavior. 

For any questions, please call the Bexar County Clerk Mental Health Office at 210-335-2536.

If you’re a guardian of an acutely mentally ill ward

A guardian has the authority to transport a ward to a mental health facility and apply for a preliminary psychiatric examination and emergency detention, without a warrant, to determine if the ward meets the commitment criteria for inpatient psychiatric services.

The guardian must file an application for the preliminary examination with the mental health facility. The applicant must state that they have reason to believe that, because of recent behavior and disturbed acts, the ward shows evidence of mental illness and is an imminent danger to themselves or others. However, the guardian does not have the right to commit the ward for inpatient services; they are only permitted to transport them into a mental health facility. This does not apply to wards who are minors.

If you’re the parent/guardian and your child/ward is a minor who may be acutely mentally ill

A parent, managing conservator, or guardian of a minor may consent to the voluntary admission of the ward to an inpatient mental health facility.

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