Ironically, Gionfriddo is a former state legislator and mayor who while in the Connecticut state legislature, helped move the mentally ill out of the large state mental hospitals when they closed during the 1980s.
Through his son’s journey through diagnosis and treatment and current cycle through the jail, shelter, and mental health systems and supportive housing, he has realized the “lessons learned” with “deinstitutionalization”:
Public schools were not prepared to educate students with severe mental illness;
Community agencies were not adequately funded to provide the mental health services critically needed in the community often resulting in local jails serving as default shelters; and
Collaboration among educators, primary care doctors, mental health and social service providers, and the criminal justice system to provide those with mental illness with the services and tools that they need to successfully live independently in the community.
“If I were a legislator today … I’d put much more money into community mental health services. I’d integrate how services are delivered by funding collaborative community mental health programs and have them run by mental health professionals. I’d include services for chronically homeless people under this collaborative umbrella.”