A painful loss for mentally ill

From The Boston Globe
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
Saturday, December 19, 2009

More than 100 people have benefited from a ‘hospital without walls,’ but state cuts are threatening their gains.

Suffering from bipolar disorder and experiencing psychotic episodes, Linda Ivy Crowder used to wander the streets all night and frequently get picked up by the police and taken to the hospital. Nearly as soon as she was released, she would end up back in the emergency room.

Finally, she was told she would have to go to a state psychiatric hospital, a prospect that devastated Crowder, who prizes her independence, her apartment, and her beloved cat, Tyler.

Then in August 2008, she began to work with a new team designed to provide intensive support for mentally ill people like Crowder who do not do well with existing treatments. Not only has PACT, short for Program for Assertive Community Treatment, kept Crowder out of the hospital, it has helped her get to a point where she pursues hobbies such as painting, reading, and writing and is even looking for a volunteer job.

But now Crowder and more than 100 other people in the state are bracing for the loss of the program, sometimes called “a hospital without walls.’’ Because of a drop in tax revenues caused by the economic downturn, the state Department of Mental Health is cutting $10.3 million from its $644 million budget. That reduction has very real consequences for people like Crowder and others served by the PACT program, because two of its 16 locations will shut down to save nearly $1.2 million.

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