We believe those with more significant needs deserve a place at the table.
Ever since John F. Kennedy signed the "Community Mental Health Act" into law on October 31, 1963, the nightmare has not ended for individuals and families who struggle against serious mental illness. With every good intention to help individuals who have a serious mental illness (SMI) migrate out of institutions, and with the development of promising new medications, the deinstitutionalization movement ensued.
Change is a sluggish process that requires ongoing cultivation and attention. Instead of tending to this experiment with sustained vigor, the offloading of responsibility took root between the states and the Federal government in a ghastly game of "Hot Potato" with those who have more persistent SMI like Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder with psychotic features. From that day until now, the nightmare has not ended for this vulnerable population and their families.
Life with dignity is nearly impossible for someone who has a serious mental illness without an appropriate living situation. We would never agree to letting our aging parents with Dementia or Alzheimer's disease fend for themselves on the streets or place them in dirty, overcrowded group homes in drug infested neighborhoods. We would never move our parents into converted, dilapidated hotels in high risk areas and yet, that is exactly what we have chosen to do for most people with more acute brain illnesses. Yet, even with appropriate application of Assisted Outpatient Treatment and the possible addition of more psychiatric beds, where do people with serious mental illness live after they are released from the hospital? Are they receiving adequate support? Are they living a life with dignity in our communities? Is this even possible? We propose, and wholeheartedly believe, that it is.