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To Save Her Son, a Mother Wants Him Treated Against His Will

Kimberly is a mom whose 22-year-old son has been cycling in and out of psychosis since he was a teenager. Her story is familiar to families across the country, with a national debate raging about when — if ever — it’s appropriate to treat severely mentally ill people against their will.

Beginning in the 1950s, a movement to protect the rights of people who were institutionalized led to the closure of many state psychiatric hospitals, where conditions were often inhumane and stays could be indefinite. The goal was to treat people with new medications, and return them to be cared for in their communities. But that better system of care never quite emerged, leaving vulnerable people with very few places to go.

Instead, there are caregivers like Kimberly who are scrambling to piece together treatment from a fragmented health care system, struggling to find any kind of helpful voluntary treatment and growing increasingly frustrated. Having watched her son lose more of himself every time he’s hospitalized, Kimberly has become convinced that he needs one of the last options available to their family: conservatorship.

Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images


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