Monday, May 08, 2006

"Mental illness in Michigan is a lifestyle choice"

That quote comes from Paula Kolonich, whose ex-husband, Gil, recently died of a heart attack. But to the residents of Holt, Michigan, Gil Kolonich was known simply as the bird man, a man who spent his days collecting cans and feeding the birds.

Gil had paranoid schizophrenia; and like so many others with this insidious disease, he was unable to understand that he needed care. That meant that under Michigan law, he could not be provided care until he posed a danger to himself or someone else. So he was allowed to deteriorate on the streets, removed from a family that desperately sought to get him care.

His son Josh explained, "We knew he was there somewhere, but there was nothing that could be done to get him back.”

In Michigan, there is hope for people overcome by severe mental illness. Kevin’s Law provides for outpatient treatment for people whose severe mental illnesses cause them to refuse needed care. Effective since March 2005, families in Michigan can use Kevin's Law to obtain effective, consistent care for their loved ones with the most severe mental illnesses.