‘I Want to Live Like a Human Being’: Where N.Y. Fails Its Mentally Ill

‘I Want to Live Like a Human Being’: Where N.Y. Fails Its Mentally Ill

A cutting-edge program to help severely mentally ill people live on their own has endangered people who were not ready, a new investigation shows.

Abraham Clemente, who is schizophrenic, moved out of an adult home into his own Brooklyn apartment last year. “I don’t want to live like this,” he said in August.  [Photo: George Etheredge for ProPublica]

Abraham Clemente, who is schizophrenic, moved out of an adult home into his own Brooklyn apartment last year. “I don’t want to live like this,” he said in August. [Photo: George Etheredge for ProPublica]

The stench from Abraham Clemente’s apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn, this summer was overwhelming. Maggot-infested scrambled eggs were strewn across the floor; a cantaloupe was so spoiled, it seemed to be melting. Feces were ground into the carpet.

Mr. Clemente, who is 69 and has schizophrenia, kept the shower and sink running for the “oxygen.” He blamed a kitchen fire on a doll nailed to a cabinet. He believed he could crush and smoke his antipsychotic medication to achieve its intended effect.

Yet the state of New York determined Mr. Clemente was capable of living on his own.

He is one of hundreds of severely mentally ill New York City residents who have been moved out of institutions into private apartments over the past four years under a landmark 2014 settlement. The approach is meant to be a national model for the rights of the mentally ill to live independently.

Joaquin Sapien and Tom Jennings, writing for The New York Times, in partnership with ProPublica and Frontline, examine an innovative NYC program designed to help and house the city’s mentally ill. Then people died.

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