Saturday, March 02, 2019

The Right to Fail—PBS

Pro-Publica and Frontline reporting on moving high functioning mentally ill people out of managed homes to supportive “independent” living. The reporter Joaquin Sapien  focuses on Nestor Bunch who at 52 was living on his own for the first time. He was in and out of supported housing, hospital, had roommates, and a 4 hour a day aide.

The complexity of care—and caring—really surprised me.  The reporter had access to boxes of medical records.  Everything was recorded—successes, failures, medications, roommates.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism from Democrats of Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California for signing the law that closed the institutions for the mentally ill, and they say, no accuse, that he is the reason for California’s terrible homeless problem.  However, it was an idea about “rights” for the mentally ill that came from academics.  So I was shocked to see the same reasoning still applies today, as NYC tries to reduce its population of seriously mentally ill from protective, and even locked, housing for many adults, and turn them lose in the name of “right to fail.”

None of the people in this film appear to be “high functioning” to me, however, I don’t know to whom they are compared. They are desperate, lonely,  afraid, wandering the streets, getting into fights, eating poorly, with no socialization. Nestor Bunch was one of the fortunates in that a friend of his deceased mother still cared and looked out for him through the machinations of the huge bureaucracy.

“People with severe mental illness can be difficult to track: some wind up on the street or in psychiatric hospitals; phone numbers often change. After a series of dead ends, I was elated when I found Bunch — until I realized he could not reliably narrate his own life. As he jumbled the timeline of his addresses and experiences, it became clear he had a traumatic story to tell. It involved finding his first roommate naked and dead, landing in the hospital with a serious injury and being sent to the trash-strewed apartment of another roommate who died.”

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