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Today’s psychiatric hospitals: Jail, the street, the courts

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Oct. 27, 2012 at 1:13 am with No Comments »
October 26, 2012 6:27 pm

Once again, a severely delusional man has been charged with murder. The victim, Robert Maline, was a respected teacher and the accused killer was his own son.

The killing reminded me of a piece a former Connecticut lawmaker published in The Washington Post last week. Paul Gionfriddo was in that state’s House during the 1980s, “when many of the state’s large mental hospitals were emptied.”

“I jumped at the opportunity to move people out of ‘those places,’” he wrote. But Gionfriddo and others made what he called “a series of critical misjudgments.”

Among them: “We didn’t adequately fund community agencies to meet new demands for community mental health services – ultimately forcing our county jails to fill the void.”

Gionfriddo’s story has a heart-breaking epilogue. His own son is now a “tall, gaunt man in ragged clothes” living on a street in San Francisco. He’s homeless. He has schizophrenia.

Gionfriddo draws a direct connection between his own actions as a legislator and his son’s fate:

“It’s the policies of my generation of policymakers that put that formerly adorable toddler – now a troubled 6-foot-5 adult – on the street.”

Washington’s Legislature made the same misjudgments in the same era. Like Gionfriddo, we’re reaping the whirlwind.

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