Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia
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Paul Gionfriddo's son Tim is one of the "6 percent"―an American with serious mental illness. He is also one of the half million homeless people with serious mental illnesses in desperate need of help yet underserved or ignored by our health and social-service systems.
In this moving, detailed, clear-eyed exposé, Gionfriddo describes how Tim and others like him come to live on the street. Gionfriddo takes stock of the numerous injustices that kept his son from realizing his potential from the time Tim first began to show symptoms of schizophrenia to the inadequate educational supports he received growing up, his isolation from family and friends, and his frequent encounters with the juvenile justice system and, later, the adult criminal-justice system and its substandard mental health care. Tim entered adulthood with limited formal education, few work skills, and a chronic, debilitating disease that took him from the streets to jails to hospitals and then back to the streets. Losing Tim shows that people with mental illness become homeless as a result not of bad choices but of bad policy. As a former state policy maker, Gionfriddo concludes with recommendations for reforming America's ailing approach to mental health.
seemed to wander in class, and he struggled with arithmetic, spelling, and reading. We moved to a new house in January, a couple of miles away from our old one. There were fewer children in the new neighborhood, and the houses were set farther back from the street, which was also much busier. Fortunately, our long driveway kept Tim from riding his scooter or bicycle out into the traffic. We had an above-ground pool with a deck in the backyard, and our four acres of woods beyond the pool abutted
for the placement to be implemented. During these five days Tim will be home schooled. Work will be provided by the school. That seemed pretty clear to me. But just four days later Tim was given an out-of-school suspension for a reason that did not involve drugs, weapons, severe assault, or any criminal behaviors. The events began when someone called in a bomb threat that resulted in the evacuation of his school. In all the confusion, Tim left the school and asked for a ride home from a student
appropriate classroom behavior, interacted appropriately with teachers, and displayed good effort in class. To determine where Tim was academically, the school also administered some standardized tests. When he took them, the school noticed the significant discrepancy in his oral and written abilities. Tim was reported to be “very lethargic” during the testing. The results included that “he was unable to tell time, had no knowledge of decimals or fractions, and appeared to be unable to compute
bed, a dresser, a couch, another television, and some more dishes and kitchenware. The newly renovated efficiency apartment consisted of a combination living room/bedroom, a kitchenette, and a bathroom. It had new paint and a new floor. It looked clean and nice, and Tim smiled when he saw it. The morning Tim moved in, however, he promptly locked himself out and lost his key. His ANEW worker wasn’t available, so I spent the rest of the day tracking down a master key. He never found his lost key,
him in late June. He was not in Middletown, but he wouldn’t say much more. “Oh noble one,” he wrote grandly, “see it is that I had to go away and leave the state for good. This, I hope, will be the best thing for a good life. So thus it is, love, yogi.” I understood his need to move on, but I needed to be sure he was okay. I wrote back and told him I was worried about him. His response was a bit more direct and down to earth. “So, okay, DON’T worry about me, Dad. Anyway, the best thing you could