Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Starving the Beasts

The California fiscal crisis is reminding me of the truly least among us - the mentally ill.  I worked for years serving this population, first delivering meals for people with AIDS (a large portion of which were “triple diagnosed” – AIDS, drug addiction & insanity) in San Francisco, then basically handing out meds in a temp home for the insane in Portland. There is a case to be made for ending the abusive nature of institutionalization and patients’ rights, but from what I’ve seen the pendulum is has done a 180.

So now instead of inhumane institutionalization, we have inhumane de-institutionalization. I can’t tell you how many people I saw who were in no shape to manage their lives, let alone their meds. The Tenderloin of SF consists of block after block of slum single-occupancy rooms filled with this population. Nurse Ratchet is now an immigrant Bangladeshi family behind a padlocked office and everything else a patchwork of non-profits struggling to provide services.

I’m sure this situation is repeated again and again in cities across the nation. And I fear in CA its gonna get real bad real soon. The Moral Midgets are finally coming to preside over a great failing state, and the shit rolling downhill will wipe many over the cliff. Starve the Beast is literally being translated into “starve the beasts”. And yet they have the nerve to paint horns on Obama.

In many cases, the best these folk can hope for is permanent incarceration.  Suffering the slings and arrows of prison may in some ways be safer than the anarchy of a 6th floor ghetto hotel, or the cold terror lurking within the bushes beside some freeway overpass.  And for many more, this will be the inevitable result when society fails to offer even the most basic supports.  If one is lucky, an opening may appear on a waiting list for one of the few quality. comprehensive service centers that exist in some communities.  But even many of these are likely to soon disappear.

I'll leave you with the trailer for Frontline's April 2009 piece The Released, which I highly recommend.

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