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The Man in Room 117

Andrey Shevelyov would rather live on the street than take antipsychotic medication. Should it be his decision to make?


Three years ago, when he stopped taking his antipsychotic medication, her son withdrew into delusions, erupting in unpredictable and menacing outbursts. Fearful of being evicted from their apartment, she and her husband, Sam, sought a no-contact order to keep Andrey away.

Since then, he had lived in a tent, wandering Vancouver, Wash. in ragged clothing and carrying machetes for protection. Twice, he had been in jail, ranting in his cell about the C.I.A. Three times, he was confined to psychiatric hospitals, where guards wrestled him down so he could be injected with antipsychotics.

Now they were together in Room 117 in a budget hotel overlooking the interstate. The county had allotted $8,400 to house him temporarily, as part of an effort by the state to divert the stream of severely mentally ill people from the criminal justice system. It was enough to keep him in the Red Lion Inn for eight weeks.

Before the money ran out, Andrey had to make a choice: Would he accept that he needed treatment, as his parents hoped, and move into a group home? Or would he go back to living in a tent? Was there another way?

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