One in four adults in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year—over 57.7 million people. A much smaller share of this group, about 6%, suffer from a severe and persistent mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or major depression. My friend Lisa Guidetti is working on a documentary on the issue and is looking to raise finishing funds for editing and post production on the film. So check out the trailer if you're interested, and consider helping.
Lavender Hall is a feature documentary about a residential care home housing a wild bunch of irreverent residents with backgrounds from pianist to plastic surgeon. A family-run residential care home in an era of expanding corporate-run facilities, Lavender Hall is an anachronism. So too is its owner, Bill Kopec, with his drill sergeant-like approach to caring for residents. Founded and run by Bill’s mother in the seaside town of Wildwood, NJ, Bill struggled to keep his mother's dream alive after her death. After almost 50 years of caring for incongruous residents, most from Ancora, the local psychiatric institution, Bill Kopec is closing Lavender Hall. He managed the home every weekend on top of being a full-time Executive at Xerox. But with Bill now older than most residents, and no family member willing to take over, the home will be demolished to make way for condos. Numerous Lavender Hall residents battle serious problems. Linda, the youngest resident at 52, is a chronic alcoholic, bi-polar, with an eating disorder. Some, like Joel, have been at Lavender Hall for more than 19 yrs, and at 62 composes and performs dozens of original operettas and musical theatre works, despite his severe autism. This dysfunctional family of 14 residents will be made homeless in 4 months unless their only advocates, Bill Kopec and his daughter Renée, can navigate the medical insurance labyrinth to find them new homes. Lavender Hall is a frequently funny and occasionally disquieting portrait of the oddball residents and their equally eccentric carers. We reveal the challenges of the enduring life on the invisible margins of society, when you are considered either too old or too crazy for anyone to care what you do.
Lavender Hall’s residents represent two growing problems in the US: how to care for an aging population that cannot afford care for themselves, and the lack of support available to those with mental health or addiction problems, many of whom are elderly. Too many are housed in secure psychiatric units instead of having access to supported independent living or residential homes. And upon Lavender Hall’s closing, many of the residents could be re-institutionalized, overmedicated, and placed at the mercy of a system that erodes their independence and control of their lives. Normally off limits to cameras, this film’s unprecedented access to a privately run facility hopes to cross that threshold of crazy and breach that lonely aging divide. But as Debbie the Care Assistant warns, “If you're not crazy when you come in, you're crazy when you leave!”