In transition to independent living, the ‘dignity of risk’ for the mentally ill

Stephanie McCrummen in the Washington Post:

RiskOn his 26th morning of independence, Kelvin Cook made a huge pot of coffee and ate oatmeal off a plate. His Social Security check had not arrived and he was down to $5. He had a cellphone plugged into a wall, but it was out of minutes. Rent was overdue. He was out of his five prescriptions, including the anti-psychotic that had suppressed the symptoms of his schizophrenia for the past year, and now he felt sluggish.

He rolled his wheelchair into the kitchen and poured himself another coffee. Day by day, he was trying to let go of all that had come before now — years of psychiatric hospitalizations, sleeping on streets, hearing voices, seeing “ghosts,” shelters, a suicide attempt and, most recently, an adult home where, for the first time, he thought he might have found stability.

Thirty-three years old, he was now trying the next step, to live on his own.
He looked around his new two-bedroom apartment in suburban Charlotte, all blank white walls and empty except for a blue couch, a bed, two side tables and a TV with no cable. He poured another cup of coffee.

“Oh, man,” he sighed.

What he had learned in his first 25 days: He didn’t know if this was going to work out.

But what he also knew: Here was his chance. This bare-bones place, the result of decades of lawsuits, legislation and a 1999 Supreme Court ruling, known as the Olmstead decision, that found it discriminatory for states to segregate people with serious mental illnesses in psychiatric institutions if they were willing and able to live more independently in the community.

Read the full article here.