A year after her divorce, Janice Jon Rothchild was homeless.
As she slipped into poverty, her 16-year-old daughter went to live with her father. With no money after the breakup of her 21-year marriage, Rothchild hit the road.Her five years of homelessness began in Florida. It ended in Provo last May. During those five years, Rothchild traveled from Florida to Canada to Las Vegas.
She survived by the kindness of strangers.
"Men would buy me a motel room - without expecting any services - so I could get out of the snow," Rothchild said.
But Rothchild did not find a "home" until she got to Provo. She is one of the people helped by the Homeless Mentally Ill Outreach Program. The outreach program is one of the programs administered through Wasatch Mental Health, formerly called Timpanogos Mental Health Center.
Tuesday the health center hosted a training seminar for mental-health professionals to better understand the homeless, mentally ill population. The seminar described the mental-health services available to the homeless population and defined the most common mental illnesses found among the homeless.
Executive Director of Wasatch Mental Health Don Muller said one-third of the homeless population is mentally ill. But, he said,"The old adage that mental illness is hopeless is not true." He said as many as two-thirds of the people with severe persistent mental illness can be helped.
The outreach program has just completed its first year. The project director, Wendy J. Wright, said the program handled 62 homeless cases in which individuals were believed to have an emotional or mental-health problem.
"Homelessness is not going to go away," said Wright. "It is going to increase." Cases of homelessness treated in Utah County increased 200 percent from January to May of 1989 compared with the same period in 1990.
Thirty-five of the people treated had a severe and persistent mental illness such as schizophrenia or a bi-polar disorder.
Symptoms of specific mental illnesses were outlined by Larry Van Bloem, a social worker with the HMI Outreach Program. A bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, also known as manic-depressive. One major symptom is a swing between an elevated and a depressed mood.
Schizophrenia is a "thought disorder" illness. Symptoms, besides disordered thinking patterns, can be an unkept appearance, slowness, lack of speech or hallucinations.
The goal of the outreach program is to coordinate services for the homeless mentally ill patient to help them become productive in our society. Muller said, "It is hard to become well when you are living in a helpless situation."
The outreach program is designed to improve the living conditions of those people in hopeless situations. The goal is to help people get well.