By Teresa Pasquini and Lauren Rettagliata
As two California moms on a mission, we invite you to join our journey across the state and into our future dreams for Housing that Heals for Families Like Ours. Housing That Heals is more than a house, a program, or a room key. It is a system of care that wraps a person in all of the necessary medical, clinical, rehabilitative, and social supports that they need in order to live and die in dignity.
We began this journey in 2019, using years of experience as moms, advocates, and community leaders as our compass. We set out looking for solutions that would mend our broken hearts and the broken system. We were hopeful that this would be the year that California would recognize that people who live heroically with serious mental illness need more than “Housing First.” First, they need a full system of care that provides care before, during, and after homelessness, crisis, hospitalization, or incarceration. Housing That Heals is a prevention and intervention plan that will systemically flatten the harm curve for those who live with serious mental illnesses.
Our report was written before the current coronavirus pandemic and we realize that there are new economic and public health challenges/priorities. We are proud and awestruck by the leadership and courage of our health providers during this crisis. However, it has been both inspiring and yet hard to watch multiple systems drop their bureaucratic barriers and move mountains to save lives when those same systems have been so rigidly protecting the status quo that kills families like ours.
Like the COVID-19 patients and families, we know what it is like to wait for beds. We know what it is like to be barred from visits. We know what it is like to have the federal, state, and local governments wait too long to act. We know what it is like to not have a test, a vaccine, or a cure. We do not wish these experiences on anyone. We are hoping that when this nightmare is over, we will remember how fast we mobilized to create medically necessary beds and united the world to protect public health and safety. We hope to combine our collective dreams to build a California for All that includes our vision for the most seriously mentally ill population of California.
For more than 50 years, our families have been living in constant crisis. We cannot wait forever for the state to fix every social, climate, and political crisis while our loved ones are suffering and dying slowly while everyone watches. When will the sweeping crisis of SMI be the focus? This is an underserved population that must be prioritized. That is why we have created this Heart Paper as a “Call to Action.” Please consider our reflections and research about the four drivers of despair and disparity and dive deep with us into possible solutions for Housing That Heals.